Sunday, December 29

Meanwhile...

We are sitting in my family room.

Ian: Who painted that still life?
Me: My Grandma, I think.
Ian: Oh.  It's really good.
Me: Actually I am not sure.  I should figure it out before I say that.
Ian: Oh.  Cool.  Who did that painting?  (Indicates an adolescent crayon drawing.)
Me: William.  It is of my mum.  *pause*  Painting?
Ian: *shrug*  And that goose?  (Indicates a taxidermy piece.)
Me: What?  Oh we've had that for ages.
Ian: Who is it of?
Me:*incredulous look*  What?
Ian: Who is it of?
Me: You.
Ian: No, you said you have had it for ages.  You haven't known me that long.
Me: I have known you longer than we have had that goose.
Ian (in a confused voice): Why do you have a goose of me?!

If you ever wanted to know what Ian and I talk about when we are alone...

Sunday, December 22

Some Finals Miracles

Honestly, I am always surprised by how many crazy blessings finals week brings.  It is horrific in nature, but I have seen so many academic miracles as I have prayed and pleaded for guidance and direction.  Here are a couple that may seem silly but have made this week into a testament of God's love.  :)

1. Fusarium

I've spent hours accumulating various bugs and weeds for two extensive collections for my Plant Health Diagnosis class.  It's been fun, if stressful.  Our final collection involved "discovering" and culturing at least 10 plant diseases.  We were collecting everything we could find from leaf spots to tumors and galls, carefully dissecting our samples, placing them in petri dishes of agar, and allowing whatever we had captured to grow and thrive, hopeful that we'd be able to identify and collect a new disease for our collection.

For example,

These leaves from our plum tree turned out to be infected with Alternaria, generally referred to as the "Common Cold" for plants.  After carefully culturing a few of the infected areas, these mycelium and spores grew, showing that I had successfully collected and cultured it.

Some diseases were pretty easy to locate and culture.  Corn smut, pictured left, was one our professor showed to us.  (The kernels have literally been changed to become these powdery "galls", which (Ian tells me) are eaten as a delicacy in Mexico.  The small black particles inside are pictured microscopically on the right.

But as the weeks drew on, the "easy diseases" were long since collected and everyone was frantically searching for new diseases.  There was one in particular I knew I had found on corn roots- a fungus called "Fusarium."  You can tell you've cultured it because it produces a bright red color in the petri dish.  It had been growing for weeks and weeks and I began to realize it would never produce the small, banana shaped spores I needed to count it in my collection.


In frustration, I realized I'd have to go out and search for more samples.

The next day it snowed.

I was horrified.  All chances of finding adequate plant diseases had been drastically reduced.  I didn't even know where to go or how to begin.  That night I knelt in prayer and, feeling silly, I asked for a miracle.  I asked for my sample to produce the Fusarium spores I'd been seeking.  I knew that the next day was the last day for us to work in the lab, and if there weren't spores, I had lost out on a significant part of the collection's points.

The next day, on my birthday (ironically), I proceeded to the lab at two, as per usual.  I went straight to the drawer where our cultures were kept and drew out the 17 or so dishes that I had been working on.  I sorted through them and found the two that supposedly held Fusarium.

Nothing.

I felt a little numb... like I always do when I realize I have unwillingly forfeited part of my grade.  I sorted through the rest of the dishes, trying to decide what to do.  Then... suddenly... I saw red.

There was one dish I had filled a few weeks prior, using a small leaf that I had found on a Firethorn bush by the parking lot.  Nothing "consistent" had come out of the 5 samples I had put in it, and my professor had told me it wasn't likely to produce anything, so I had put it aside, assuming it was a useless attempt.

 But here... from one of the samples... was some red growth.  I showed it to the TA who agreed that it was very likely Fusarium.  "It isn't likely to have produced spores yet, but we should check," she explained.  We cut out a few small pieces of the reddish agar, and placed them on slides.  And we started searching.

Some minutes later, she smiled and turned the scope to me.  I looked inside, and lo-

Seemingly growing out of nowhere,
Fusarium.


















2.

I woke up at 6:00 on Monday from a difficult night's sleep, feeling apprehensive for my turf and religion finals.  I jumped into the shower and as I was washing my hair (there is something about the shower that allows for revelation) I had a sinking realization.

I had three small assignments that had been due that morning at 6:00.

I finished and ran downstairs to my computer and read over the announcements in my class, hoping I was mistaken.  But no, two small feedback assignments were overdue-one of which accounted for 20% of my grade because it was a participation report.  In red lettering under the announcement (which had been posted a week prior) read something like: "I will absolutely not accept these submissions late.  Don't ask for expectations."

I was already facing a lower grade in the class and I felt absolutely sick at the prospect of getting a low enough score that I would need to take it again.  I did the only thing I could think to do.  I knelt down and prayed that all would be well and that I could focus on my exams.  I filled out the submissions regardless and emailed the professor explaining that they were available if he needed them, even if not for credit.



That evening, we received a message from our professor:

I know it is a busy time. I have extended the Peer Eval and the P&A self grade deadlines to

Tuesday morning 6:00am.

Please complete them TODAY. It would be a shame to lose those significant points.




Silly as it is, I wept with relief. I knew Heavenly Father's awareness, even to things that weren't necessarily important. Even if these things hadn't come through, he helped me to feel calm and prepared for whatever would happen. I feel like that is in itself the greatest relief that can come. :)

Tuesday, November 26

Haiku and Update

School is almost done.
Little do I care because
I am a VAMPIRE.

Yesterday I went to a counseling session for the first time.  After some discussion, she gave me a kindly look and asked "are you the type of person who worries about worrying?"

Why yes.  Yes I am.

How did she know?  0_o

Second question, how the heck do you go from "Nice, we are dating and isn't life wonderful?" to "Let's transition this mess into an engagement and completely change lifestyles?"  Isn't there a transition phase?  If there is, it seems to be "aaauuuuuuuuugggghhh what is going on in my brain?!?!  I am so confused!  Is this real life?!"

EDIT:
Sorry for the confusion!  I am not engaged.  Not within the next while, I promise.  ;)


Thursday, October 24

Breakthrough

Source
Just an update.  :)  Since I wrote last time I have figured a few things out.  I am going to try and graduate with Honors, which requires you to write and defend a Thesis based on research of some kind.  I felt hopelessly lost about what to do, but I went in to talk to one of my professors, who jumped enthusiastically and explained that the government was after him to research means to wipe out an invasive species called "Phragmites".

Who'd have thought I'd be into scientific research?
We'll see.  I need to do a literature review and call a student at Utah state who is working on the same idea.  This could be a breakthrough.  :)

Another part of graduating with honors is coming up with a "great question" of some kind to research and write an extensive paper on.  I've been trying to think of great questions.  In light of being at BYU and being into plants... I thought maybe I'd look into why Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden.  That'd be cool I think.  Or... any ideas?

Thursday, October 17

Quests and Revelations

Note: This is a weird post because I am thinking aloud.  Carry on.

I am on a quest.  I didn't realize this when I left Wisconsin.

I guess I had some vague idea that I had important decisions to make and unknowns I would have to figure out.

That's the part of quests that we always think of.  "______ is going to _____ in order to figure out her ________ and to become ________."

Wooo.  Having been a bookworm, (theoretically still so), I have read of many quests.  I'd like to be that person.  I'd like someone or something to be a catalyst in my life--send me spinning into a journey (metaphorically or physically) on which I come to terms with my particular mission in life and how I am oh so perfectly suited for it.  (It'd be cool if along the way I met my husband.  I feel like the romantic/sexual tension in quests makes them all the more driven.)

This self-discovery can come in many forms.  Currently, for me, it is in the form of a career path.  This is the lesson I want to learn about myself.  This is the quest I want to pursue.  Where in this world can I bring the most value?  Find the most satisfaction?

Maybe it's not the one I'm meant to.  Not right now.

Suddenly I realize the subconscious aspect of quests.  The parts where we realize why or why not we are content.  Why or why not we have embarked on a quest at all.  Why are we trying to change?  Do we analyze these things?  Or do we just follow them?

Why am I in school?
_______________________
Because society implicated that I needed to go.
I like to learn things.
It's the logical next step.
My religious leaders support the idea.

As I look at my list (list making is a skill I have begun to notice I have an obsession with), I realize that my reasons for coming to college are slim and watery.

Why did I come?!  Why am I still here?!

There is a part of me I try to subdue.  Maybe it is negativity.  It comes out when I am not careful.  When it does, those around me receive abundant levels satire, sarcasm, whining, etc.  But no, this part of me isn't where the world can see it.  I think Sister Johnson (my first Wisconsin companion) saw it.

Hopelessness.  Sunken costs.  I look back and I don't like where I am and I cannot for the life of me see the value in what got me here.

This is my quest.

I need to face the consequences of my decisions.  Of my life thus far.  "Who I Have Become" in all it's glory.

Why am I dissatisfied?  Why is discontent and irritation festering inside of me every time I go to class?

Why have I lost the desire to learn?

I went to a lecture today about medieval literature.  Why?  I dunno.  It took me back to a place I was at in high school.  In the first year or two of college.  Curiosity.  Desire.  Wonder.  Knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

And I realized I'd lost that.  I'd suppressed it.  I'd let myself become lazy and focused on the trivialities of the world.  Work for the sake of money.  Class for the sake of a grade.  School for the sake of career.  Church for the sake of salvation.

I don't fully recognize myself.  But I see myself--or who I thought I was--in others.

I need to remember how.

I need to learn to love who I have become.  To see her for her potential.  Not for who she could have been.

Source


Thursday, October 3

Logic

I am going through a midlife crisis.

Mid=middle.  Interpretation=half.

Conclusion=I am halfway through life.

Significant realization=I have 22 years to live.




Sunday, September 29

The Lord Knows All Things

"Well... It sounds like you have your hands full."  He leaned back in his chair.  "I am beginning to question extending this to you."  He paused and looked me directly in the eye.  "I know you are the kind of person who would never refuse a calling, even if you really didn't have the time to fill it."

I just watched him, feeling the Spirit confirm his words, even as it reinforced the need for me to accept whatever was coming.

"So I will say this.  Do you feel that you are in a position to accept a demanding calling?"

I felt some anxiety boil around in my stomach, thinking about how frantically I had been trying to organize this week's assignments, obligations, classes, and hours of work.  Unwillingly, I felt tears come to my eyes.

"It might depend on the calling.  But... Yes.  I would say so."

He smiled warmly.  "I feel it is right.  We do as a Bishopric."

The Spirit pulsed again, reminding me of the assurances that had come again and again through prayer- that the Lord was stretching me in needful ways.

"I can promise you Sister Black, the Lord will lighten your many burdens so that you may give adequate time to this calling.  It is of utmost importance to Him."

I could only nod.  Feelings of inadequacy.  Anxiety.  Pride.

The Spirit was warm.  This was a vital part of the next phase of my life.

"Very well.  Sister Black, how important do you feel that missionary work is to a YSA ward?"

...

Sunday, September 15

Fall 2013 Part 2

Turf Science
Source

Yep.  Who'd have thought you could have an entire 3.0 credit class on THIS stuff?
Interestingly enough, this is one that I really enjoy.  We each have a small (4 ft square) plot of grass that we are supposed to take care of.  I've grown fond of mine... named it Longshanks.

Anyways, we are learning how to prepare soil for grass, how to plant it or to lay sod, and about different kinds of grass/fertilizer/herbicide/pesticide/etc.
Source

Fun fun.


Econ 110
I could only avoid it for so long.

Let's just say I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would.  But it is a course that requires much babysitting.

And I am not the only senior there.  So HA.


Source
Pearl of Great Price
SUCH an excellent class.  And I get to take it with none other than the amazing, spectacular Groslandia.
We are going to be reading it through a few times this semester.  He mentioned that some students read it through every two weeks, and I think I may set a goal to do the same.  This is one set of scripture that I haven't given enough time, that is for sure.
Source


Careers in Landscape Managment

This is one of those one credit classes you don't really want to take, but you have to.
Pretty much they are going to try and get me to choose a career path.
This will be a battle of all sorts.  I am playing both sides.

Sunday, September 8

Fall 2013 Part 1

I've discovered that one of the ways I process things is to blog about them.  If I don't quite know what to think about something, I just need to type it out and try to explain it to a vague audience, and voila!  I am cured of my irritable disposition.  (Not really, but, well...)

So... I'm going to examine my new classes, now that I've had a chance to go to them all.  :)  This will come in multiple parts b/c I seriously have no time.

BUS M 488 - Agribusiness Management 1

Source: http://www.marketcues.com/blog/wp-content/
uploads/2012/06/1306214494_business_strategy.jpg
Ooooh man... I think I've been dreading this class since I saw it in my major "plan".  I didn't even really know what it entailed.  But the title sounded intimidating.  This is also the closest I've gotten to 500 before in regards to "class level", so I just feel overwhelmed looking at the title.

In reality, however, this class won't be as heinous as I thought.  True, much of it will be debate and raising intelligent concerns/questions during group discussion, and trying to determine how to help particular companies to succeed and group work and all sorts of things that seem to me to make up some kind of private hell, BUT... it is doable.  The professor seems like a genuine, entertaining guy, and my classmates seem intelligent and respectful.  (None tried to draw me into unnecessary conversation, for example.)

Pretty much I will be studying strategic management, which basically means figuring out how a business can gain a competitive edge over other businesses--particularly in the green industry.
Source: http://www.eppo.int/images/home/im2-1.jpg

PWS 431 - Plant Health Diagnostics

This class makes me feel like a doctor for plants.  :)
Pretty much like it says, I will be learning to look at plants and how to tell what is wrong with them.  Lots of lab work and collecting, which is something I think I'll enjoy.  (Except for the fact that I have to find grasshoppers and learn how to spread out one of their wings.  UGH.)  But, hey, I've never gotten to collect bugs... or plants.  Or diseases.  I like this picture, because, WTF?! is on that tree?  Maybe I will find out.  :)


Sunday, September 1

Being An Introvert

Another bit of deep introspection and rambling.  Feel free to skip if you aren't interested:

One of the precious gifts that I received as a missionary was the opportunity to work with a woman named Trisha in my ward.  Meaning... she worked with my companion and I.  Originally, because of some medical difficulties, we'd begun meeting with her for my companion.  As part of the emotional help that she gave, she asked my companion to come up with a list of "concerns" or "burdens" she couldn't discard and was carrying with her.  Because my companion is stubborn and dislikes such intense introspection, I offered to help by doing one of my own so it wouldn't be "all about her".

Once these lists were written, we were required to verbally go over them with Trisha- to discuss what they were, why they were on the list, what the truth about them was, etc.  I hadn't know what I was getting myself into, but bit by bit these things were pulled into the open and discussed so that we could prayerfully give them up to the Lord.

I was at a point in my mission when I was thinking a great deal about regrets.  I felt often as though I'd wasted much of my mission- that I hadn't used it wisely.  I could pinpoint most of the failings and wasteful moments of my mission to my shyness, my disinterest in people as a general rule, my desire to be alone, etc.  These were all things that--subconsciously, at least, I'd hoped to change during my mission.  And here I was, the same as before.  If anything, with a greater longing to have time to myself than ever.

This made my list.  I think I wrote something like: "I am a selfish person who gives little thought to the needs of others" or "I am a proud, uncaring woman" or "I have been selfish and wasteful with my time and with my heart on my mission".  Something like that.  I was trying to put to words the guilty negative feelings that I had towards this situation.  Towards who I was or what I was.

I read my sentence aloud and she gave me a concerned look.  (This woman is very sweet, very blunt, and very spiritual.)

"That doesn't sound like you at all.  Do you think that's really true?"
"Well... yes.  I don't want to be around people.  I don't feel like I love them.  Or that I care about how they feel."

I can't quite remember what she said next.  I just
remember she seemed so sad.  So pleading.  She told me that I was not cruel or unkind or any of those things.  That it was okay to want to spend time by myself and to take greater joy in simple, quiet activities.  That I wasn't selfish.

Source

That I am an introvert.

We had many conversations after that one about being an introvert- how large groups and endless social interactions were an overload for my brain, and how I needed to "recharge".  How there wasn't a problem with this- that it was an acceptable personality trait, and how I didn't need to change.

I don't need to try and change my desires; to interact with others and be more social and outgoing.  In fact, I am wired to do things this way and it works. 

I can't really portray how free this made me feel.  I didn't know anything about being an introvert or an extrovert.  And somehow, having this understanding has made me into a much better person.  It has made everything easier.

I guess this also goes back to the concepts we try so hard to understand--that we are all created differently for a reason.  That God does not intend for us to be the same.  That we shouldn't compare ourselves to others.

This is another thing for me to add to my now-growing list of "things I don't have to try and change about myself."  And I am so grateful.  Because the list of things we need to change is so very easy to add to!

Sunday, August 25

Something of an Update Continued


I've been looking through old blog posts, and here: (http://pitatewer.blogspot.com/2011/08/something-of-update.html) I found one called "Something of an Update".  For the sake of science, I've decided to update my post "something of an update".

10 Things today that have made me happy:
-Sleeping past 6 for the first time in weeks.
-Wearing a new shirt in my favorite colors.
-Cloudy grayness.
-Seeing Gros at church and feeling like she was happy to see me too.
-My lovely new computer.  :)
-Making pudding on the rice.
-Fixing and updating my tablet, Wesley.
-FINALLY remembering to pay tithing.
-Talking at length with Rose (who was sleeping under our lilac bush) about how she is getting ready to move on, and won't it be exciting, and I'll miss you.

10 Things that make me anxious:
-Sleeping past 6 for the first time in weeks.  (Yes.)
-Needing to get a car.
-Moroni starting at Zubs this week.
-Leslie moving away and having a hard time.
-Moroni's costume (aughhh one week!)
-Trying to budget and organize my finances.
-Lost my CSB key.
-Unfinished projects before school starts.
-Still trying to get all my books/professors STILL not posting book lists.
-Hard times that my friends and family are going through.  

10 Things I'm excited for:
-SCHOOL.
-Almost done at CSB.
-Moroni starting at Zubs this week.
-Playing Skyrim.
-Seeing certain people.
-Working at the temple as an ordinance worker!  (6:25-11:00 Saturdays)
-Doing family history.
-Hanging out with Jareth on Labor Day.
-Taking Yoga.
-Ward FHE tomorrow.

Thursday, August 22

Work and Being Alone With My Thoughts

I work in a packaging facility.  So an average day will be:

7:00-9:00 -- Putting shrink bands on the tops of bottles.
9:00-9:15 -- Break.
9:15-11:30 -- Putting bottles on a conveyor belt.
11:30-12:00 -- Lunch
12:00-1:45 -- Putting bottles in boxes.
1:45-2:00 -- Break.
2:00-3:30 -- Putting shrink bands on the tops of bottles.

The jobs will rotate at random, but those three things are pretty much my duties.  I can't complain, because I am grateful for a job and one that I can do inside while wearing scrubs.  Needless to say, though, I have a LOT of time to think.  We aren't allowed headphones, and a majority of the people who work there speak mostly Spanish, so I don't have much opportunity to chat with others.  So I just get lost in my thoughts and fantasies.

I've tried to analyze how I spend my time "thinking".  What thoughts are productive?  Which are not?  Has anyone ever thought about this?

...

I just remembered in The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett: the main character Tiffany Aching recognizes within herself "third thoughts".  Meaning, we have first thoughts, second thoughts, and third thoughts.  (You will likely recognize the second.)  Wikipedia says the following:

As a witch, Tiffany possesses First Sight, the ability to see 'what is really there' (as opposed to Second sight, which shows people what they think ought to be there). She also possesses Second Thoughts, which are defined as 'the thoughts you think about the way you think'. Whilst other witches are said to have this trait as well, Tiffany also recognizes some of her thoughts as Third Thoughts, (the thoughts you think about the way you think about the way you think,) and Fourth Thoughts, (the thoughts you think about the way you think about the way you think about the way you think.) All these thoughts sometimes cause Tiffany to walk into doorframes.

I think I'm a witch.  

(By the way, I highly recommend that book.  I have the illustrated version if you'd like to borrow it.)

I spend a great deal of time thinking about what I think, and now I'm thinking about what I'm thinking about the way I think.

Hmm.

Topics of thought (in no specific order):

  • Whatever I'm currently reading.
  • The temple ordinances.
  • What I want to buy with the money I'm making.
  • What I have to buy with the money I'm making.
  • I may get married in the next few years.
  • Food.
  • Etc.
*sigh*
Anyways, this was another useless post brought to you by Beth.  :)


Monday, August 12

Marriage Voices

As recently returned missionaries of any gender, we are stereotypically expected to wed within the year of our return.  I feared this greatly my whole mission.  BUT...

I will say with surprise and uncertainty, that the ONLY person who has encouraged me to look for a husband since I got home was an elderly sealer I met in the Jordan River temple.  

I guess I am meant to make my own decisions again.  Boooo.  Frankly though, there are some pretty important reasons why I cannot get married until at LEAST 2015.  

For example:



I need to find someone who is not TOTALLY weird who will wear a kilt.  (I assume this may mean an extended period of time IN Scotland, b/c many of the well-meaning kilt wearers in this country are a little too strange.)



I want to get married in this temple... which will not be finished until 2015.


I worked hard to cultivate this attitude on my mission.  Part of me can't get over it.


This one speaks for itself.

So there you have it.  My rationale for things.  Let's see what happens to me NOW.  


Friday, August 2

BFFL

Today Moroni asked me if we were "BFFL"s.  He pronounced it how it is spelled.  Say it now.  If you sound like you got punched in the stomach and you're going to hurl, you've got it exactly right.

I gave him a look.

He gave me a look.  His looks are better than mine.  He is 17.

He explained to me that it means "best friends for life."



Disdain.

But I told him we were.  :)

Emma just gave me a guitar.  WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH IT?!

Thursday, July 25

Just Wanting to Write

First off, this really applies to me:


Anyways.  I really just... feel like writing people sometimes, you know?  This blog is a nice place to do that.  I don't even have to think about who I'm writing to.  I just get to write and complain and wist away and no one can stop me.

Mwahaha.

I started another job this week.  I get to wear scrubs (which, I dunno about everyone else, but they make me feel way cooler than I actually am) and do assembly line work.  It is strange to be putting in full time.  At first I felt really trapped - I mean, I am gone from 7-4 every day?!  Will I have time to live?!

And of course, it turns out that, yes, I totally still have time to live.  And watch the rest of Downton Abbey, apparently.  (Except I had the end of the 3rd season spoiled for me, and now I don't want to finish it.)

I still haven't read any books.  This comes as a shocker for me, because in those wicked selfish moments on my mission when I'd be thinking longingly about life after service, I always pictured myself reading.  Perhaps the enormous number of books, movies, and crap I need to "catch up" on is overwhelming.  But I definitely need to get reading.  I am going to go renew my library card and start back on track.

I was thinking today about a moment I had when I was serving.  It was in January 2012... not long after I'd started out.  I was trying to fall asleep, lying awake about 2:00 am.   I was having an anxiety attack, (not uncommon for me during those first months), feeling overwhelmed about what I'd taken on and how much I didn't want to be there, reeling in mental and emotional circles.  For the first time I really recognized it in myself--selfishness.  Utter and complete.  I wanted to go home.  I wanted to call my mission president and ship out.  I wanted to retreat.

I kept trying to come up with a scenario in which that would end up well.  And in the end, I realized that there wasn't one.  Elder Holland reminds us that "a gift was given in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary.  If we say we've been sent by Him, we better have evidence of it by having a taste of it."

I was having my own taste.  And I realized that I had reached a point of no return, so to speak.  I was either serving for myself... or for God.  I was either motivating myself... or allowing those I love to motivate me.

Suddenly I thought of my younger siblings - both prospective missionaries themselves.  Could I face them, having given up?  Could I give them any excuse to give up themselves?

I thought of Jesus Christ.  I felt as though he were watching me, silently, waiting for me to make a decision.  One which He knew I would make.  Because he knows me.  Perfectly.

And it was with anxiety-strewn submission that I drifted off.

And I never looked back.

I don't know if every missionary confronts such feelings.  Surely there are those who are already pure in ways they need to be.  I needed to be humbled.  And sorely.  But the Lord directed me.  And now I can better trust that he will.

I cannot say enough how desperately I needed to serve.  I still cannot quite believe He let me.



Sunday, July 21

Homecoming

Again, some requests for my talk, so here ya go.  :)  Thank you to all who came!  I was grateful for the praise and support, etc etc.  I love you guys.  :)

NOTE: Some parts were left out because I was short on time.  

I’ve been asked today to speak about covenants.  I have a problem with narrowing down topics, so you can imagine how this week has been for me.  I have given a lot of thought, and I hope that something in what I say will help you to improve your own commitment to God.  I’d like to talk first about what covenants are, and then about some of the things that keep us from living them.  

What are Covenants?
A covenant is defined in the Bible Dictionary as “an agreement between God and man, an accord whose terms are set by God.” (see Bible Dictionary, “Covenant,” 651). Elder Christofferson explained that “In these divine agreements, God binds Himself to sustain, sanctify, and exalt us in return for our commitment to serve Him and keep His commandments.”  There is nothing more valuable to us than the promises we make with God.  They are our only hope in this life and in the next.  They are the only way we can apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ to our lives.

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi exclaims “my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers; yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death” (2 Nephi 11:5).  Nephi clearly knows from experience that covenants are precious.  He recognizes that if we shall “bind [ourselves] to act in all holiness before [God], […] glory shall be added to the kingdom which [we] have received,” a promise given in D&C 43:9-10.  

Application of Covenants
Missionary work is all about covenants.  It is loving people and desiring to invite and direct them to the proper means to make covenants.  I asked several of the recent converts I knew as a missionary to share with me how making covenants has influenced them.  I got a variety of answers.

A woman who has been a member for six or so years said: “they make me accountable, and bring me closer to the Lord by being obedient.”  

Another said: “My family has been questioning me recently about how I could choose so quickly to change my lifestyle so drastically, but I always knew that Heavenly Father has our best interest in His heart. Remembering the covenants I made at Baptism is what brings me hope in times of trial, love in times of sadness, and happiness in every moment. I don't know exactly what covenants are made in the temple, but I know that they are not only life-changing but life-directing, too.”  

Another mentioned that her friends had all told her that she was changing.  Some were not very pleased with what was happening.  But her home had become a sacred place, and her countenance was visibly brighter each time we saw her.  She has been baptized for a few months, and her two children as well.  They have bound themselves to their Father in Heaven.  And that is something tangible and powerful.

These Sisters had a wonderful understanding of the blessings of making covenants.  We know that they bind us to God.  They help us to be accountable and obedient.  They direct our lives.  I was reading last week in the patriarchal blessing of my great-grandmother.  A phrase stood out to me that said: “You are destined to live long upon this earth to fulfill the measure of your creation, and you will be permitted to enter into the sacred precincts of the temple of our lord – there to receive your sealings and anointings and blessings that will qualify you for the work before you.  […]  Inasmuch as you will permit your heart to turn unto the Lord in supplication and in promise, you will ever be inspired in your labor of whatever name or nature it may be.”  

This is a very direct promise, and I know it is applicable to each of us.  We all have an eternal destiny, and our covenants qualify and inspire us to follow it by means of the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.  But only, notice, “inasmuch as [we] permit [our] hearts to turn unto the Lord.”

Now, I grew up in the church, and it gets really easy to pass over words that I know fairly well, but don’t actually know the definition of.  Intercession.  Eschew.  Wrought.  “Inasmuch” is one of those words, so I decided to look it up.  Inasmuch means “to the extent that”.  So, going back to the promise, we read that we are rewarded for keeping our covenants “to the extent” that we turn our hearts to God.  

Letting God Help Us
The Lord can only work with as much as we give him. This is vividly apparent on a mission.  The Spirit’s presence is proportional to the effort we give in our studies and the diligence we give each day as we go out to teach and find.  Every little bit of obedience helps, and every little bit of disobedience hurts.  

It is up to us to “permit”our hearts to turn unto God, so that we may unlock the blessings of our covenants.  It is completely our choice.  But the adversary knows that we want to live righteously and to keep our covenants.  So he comes up with subtle ways to turn us away from them, because every little bit of dedication he can turn away from God has an effect and opens the door to further distraction.

We have a beautiful little ash tree in our backyard.  It is a few years old, and it is just getting big enough to sit under and enjoy the shade.  It looks green and healthy.  The other day mum and I were working on a project, sitting under the tree, when we noticed strange brown things sticking out of the bark.  We could tell that they were from some kind of bug.  After a bit of research, we realized they were empty pupal cases, left behind from moths.  The “lilac-ash borer” is a type of bug that lays it’s eggs on the bark of a tree in the winter.  When they hatch, the larvae burrow into the bark and tunnel through to find nourishment and warmth.  In the Spring, they emerge as moths and leave behind the casing that we’d found.  We had a specialist come and see what could be done, but he explained that the damage had been going on for a few years.  The tree was going to die unless we would spend hundreds of dollars spraying it with chemical treatments each year for the rest of it’s life.  

If we had known what these borers were and been looking for signs of them, we’d have noticed.  The little holes and breakage in the bark is clearly visible to someone who is looking for it.  But the tree doesn’t look sick in any other way.  It is continuing to function.  But, likely, it will die in the next few years.  

Too often, we live our covenants in similar ways.  We see and feel no indication of decreasing faith and obedience, but opposition is always there.  The adversary is very cunning in trying to keep us from reaching our full potential as covenant children of the Lord.  I’ve come up with four subtle “traps” that we fall into regularly which keep us from fully living our covenants.

Wasting time.
This trap has become horribly apparent to me since I’ve gotten home.  The nice thing about being a missionary, is that many of the things that I get caught wasting time doing are not allowed.  Many people lament the time they keep spending on social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest.  A news article I read referred to Pinterest as “digital crack for women”.  These days there are many appealing and addicting opportunities to waste time from video games to endless hours of reality TV and cartoons.  The brethren of the church speak of this frequently.  

In his talk “The Perfect Leader,” Spencer W. Kimball says: “Jesus also taught us how important it is to use our time wisely.  This does not mean there can never be any leisure, […] but there must be no waste of time.  […]  Time cannot be recycled.  When a moment has gone, it is really gone.  The tyranny of trivia consists of it’s driving out the people and moments that really matter.  […]  Wise time management is really the wise management of ourselves.”

So what happens when we waste time?  Often, the first thing we miss out on as we rush around to do all the important things we could’ve been doing, is reading our scriptures.  Or going to the temple.  Family history.  We feel too busy to do these things, because we put so much emphasis on unimportant distractions.  Like Pres. Kimball said, we are held hostage by the trivial things we spend time doing.  In the temple we make covenants of consecration.  We cannot consecrate wasted time.  One of the simplest ways to insure that we are living our covenants more fully is to be aware of how we spend our time, and set specific goals to improve.  

Self-Centeredness.
Second, we have the trap of being self-centered.  I always think of David and Bathsheba with this one.  No matter how righteous he had been, he faltered, he put his desires above his covenants, and he turned from his course.

The story of David is a powerful example to us.  No matter where we are at in life, (much like our ash tree), we are susceptible.  That is because we are FALLEN.  And we have to remember that, accept that it’s part of our experience here, and be constantly on guard.  The fallen man is an enemy to God because he is focused on himself.  He is the opposite of everything Jesus Christ exemplified.  Elder Bednar gave a beautiful talk about the natural man in the MTC when I was there.  He directed us to, quote: “get over yourselves.”  A huge part of our covenants is “getting over ourselves”.  Again, as a missionary, I had to remind myself of this often.  If I was ever feeling low or frustrated, or homesick, it was because my thoughts and my heart were on myself.  Mother Teresa said: “One thing will always secure Heaven for us – the acts of charity and kindness with which we have filled our lives.”  

Discouragement.
There is a big difference between Godly sorrow and the guilty nagging worthlessness that Satan tries to bring us to.  Discouragement and doubt are things that never have and never will come from our Father in Heaven.  He directs and guides us, but He will never depress us.  We need to learn from Nephi’s example in 2 Nephi 4.  After his father has died, he writes what has been referred to as “Nephi’s psalm.”  I’m grateful this section is included in the Book of Mormon, because you can see the adversary trying to discourage Nephi, and how Nephi reacts to it.  Nephi says “oh wretched man that I am!  Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.  I am encompassed about-“ not because of Godly sorrow, but “because of the temptations and the sins that so easily beset me” (2 Nephi 4:17-18).  

He recognizes the source of his discouragement, and he promptly rejects it with testimony and prayer.  The sooner we can realize where our own discouragement is coming from, and turn to Heavenly Father for love and peace, the sooner those effects will be cast away.  If we become so burdened, our faith wavers and fades just when we need it the most.  We must always seek to make and renew our covenants- God has always made a way for the earnest and willing soul to return to him.  We can’t let our past mistakes prohibit us from living our covenants now.  

Desensitization.
Elder Scott said: “You cannot be passive in life, or in time the natural man will undermine your efforts to live worthily.”  I think this trap is one of the most dangerous because it is the most subtle.  The very nature of being desensitized keeps us from recognizing or acknowledging what has happened.  Perhaps the lyrics of my music aren’t going to drive me to swear or commit a sin.  Maybe I’m not going to become a homicidal maniac because I’ve been killing Zombies for a few hours straight.  But we have to be careful.  We are blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost.  He is with us as long as we are worthy.  But how much of his influence are we willing to sacrifice so that we can fit in or be entertained?  That is really the question here.  This is kind of a convoluted example, but when I got back, I tried sincerely to keep up with studying the Scriptures for an hour a  day.  As time went on, and I began to get busier, I found less and less time for studying.  At first I felt badly, but that feeling faded and I kept making excuses.  This week, because I was giving a talk, I began studying a great deal more.  I started earnestly seeking to increase my understanding of covenants.  And immediately I felt light I hadn’t recognized was missing return to my day.  

I have had a lot of rough spots like that.  We lose sight of how wonderful it feels to be obedient, and it is all but impossible to recognize, except under the guidance of the Spirit.  Think for a moment about the movies you watch, the music you listen to, the ways you spend your time-can the Holy Ghost be with you?  One of the reasons we are commanded to abstain from drugs and alcohol is because we are less sensitive to the Spirit under such influences.  But what about the entertainment we indulge in?  
I’m not calling for a total revamp of anyone’s life, but we all need to be increasingly aware of whether or not our decisions are inhibiting our capacity to feel the Spirit.  “If ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, … ye must perish” (Mosiah 4:30).  Our covenants become of less and less vitality when we indulge in the things of this world.  Our perspective becomes increasingly skewed.  

I’d like to add a disclaimer.  I speak of each of these traps from personal experience.  I see them each and every day in my life, whether in the moment or looking back on a week.  Often, I fall into them.  The trick is how quickly we can realize it and get out.  If you’ve thought of anything you can personally do to improve your commitment to keep your covenants, I invite you to take it to the Lord.  Remember, he gives us weaknesses that we may be humble and turn unto him.  Being susceptible to any of these things is no difference.  If you recognize that you are having trouble with a particular temptation, then you can know for sure that Heavenly Father is prepared to help you change.  He doesn’t bring weaknesses to our attention unless we are prepared to face them.  He wants us to become better, not discourage us.  

One of my dear friends in Wisconsin bore a similar testimony.  In a month I saw her and her dear husband transform from inactive members to powerful, faithful servants of the Lord.   She said: I am happier knowing what heavenly fathers plan is and how I can strive with my husband to get back to him and get to the celestial kingdom where he wants all his children to be with him. Its not by any means easy but with a prayer in my heart for guidance and the power of repentance I can work on his and my plan to be the daughter, wife, friend, companion, and sister I am to be. I am a work in progress. Because of the covenants I made with my heavenly father I can stay focused on my goal and be obedient.  


We are all “works in progress”.  It is our decision to determine how quickly that progress can occur.  I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, July 15

RM

Well that was a long break.  Sorry about that.

I still feel unsure about what to write.  Being an "RM" is an interesting position, mostly because you jump back into what feels like an old itchy life that doesn't quite fit anymore, and you have to figure out exactly where your mission calculates in.  Each day it seems less and less in your control.


On the flip-side, I will say without hesitation that things are going very well for me.  Marvelously well.  I already have two jobs, a place to live, and friends/family who are eager and excited to be with me.  I can already see the habits and desires I had as a missionary affecting my life, and it is incredible!  Who'd have thought that everyone was right?  

I have had many other "RMs" give me advice.  From what I can gather, I will suffer considerable discomfort for the next six months, and I need to be patient with myself.  We all know how well that is going to work out... I feel a little like cookie monster.  "I want normal life NOW."

I guess I need to just keep working on that formula and try to ignore the feeling that I should have it together by now.

All is well.  :)


Saturday, June 29

Home

I'm back!  For reals.  I'm writing this just to let you know.  I don't really know what to write or anything...

So this is a boring post.

But what else?  :)

Tuesday, June 25

# 76 (Last mission post)

Hello all! 

This week was pretty good!  All I can think about right now is how much I smell like Oyster sauce.  Our Hmong friends Mee and Chong were teaching Sister Lybbert and I how to make stuffed chicken, and I am now full and content.  And smelling like Hmong food.  So I can't really think about anything else.  It was really good.  I have a few more pieces waiting in the fridge at home.  :)

For some reason everyone wants me to come say goodbye to them, so that has occupied most of our mornings.  I think sometimes that the most difficult part of a mission for me has been getting to know so many people and then having so many of them wanting to keep in contact with me.  It's great and all... but stuff like that stresses me out.  We all know I'd be very content if everyone I met kinda forgot about me after I left.  ;)  But life isn't supposed to work like that and if I am to be a covenant-keeping daughter of God I need to make and keep relationships with others so I can help them and allow them to help me.

I'm learning that slowly. 

This has been the fastest week of my life.  It's horrible.

I've eaten a lot of food... my favorite gyros and Culvers as a goodbye.  Maybe I can be healthy in Utah.  ;) 

We had a training on Thursday for Sister Lybbert and all the other 12 week old missionaries.  She is doing so well.  :)  Now she will have to move on and learn to live with a new companion who is probably cool like me but not cool in the same ways as I am.

The nice thing about leaving is that we have an excuse to go see all the random people and investigators that we haven't really seen for a while.  We've got back in contact with some, so that has been a blessing.  :) 

This is probably only going to get more confusing and boring, so I will just say goodbye.  See ya on the other side?  Or, as Mormons say, "till we meet again".  :)
My jump drive just ran out of room for pictures.  I guess that's that.  I will miss it here dearly.  :(  Please be nice to me when I come home. 

Pictures:
1. Stuffed chicken.  :) 
2. Heather's kids and some kids she was babysitting... I will miss em.  :(
3. Last district!  This is a horrible pic, but whatever. 

--
-Sister B.



Tuesday, June 18

# 75



I think what impresses me the most about the crazy business of getting close to the end is how completely unreal it feels.  I think I am in denial... because I don't feel trunky or stressed or worried.
 
That's going to change, I'm sure.  For now I count it as a tender mercy.  People ask over and over how I'm feeling, so I may as well say it here.  I'm doing perfectly fine.  As far as my brain is concerned, there was nothing before Wausau and I'm not leaving. 
 
Sometimes doing missionary work makes me want to study psyochology. 
 
Anyways, in other news, the large group photo you see is of our ENTIRE mission.  We got to gather together for a "mission tour" in Neenah, and for two hours we were spoken to by seventies Elder Funk, Elder Ward, Elder Nielsen, and Elder Clayton of the presidency of the seventy, and Elder Oaks of the quorum of the twelve apostles.  :)  It was so wonderful to shake each of their hands!  Elders Clayton, Ward, and Funk all came to our Stake Conference the next day, and Elder Clayton called upon Sister Lybbert to bear her testimony in front of everyone.  He apologized to her afterwards.  It was awesome.  :) 
 
They spoke quite a bit about the desires of our hearts and the process of repentance.  The last few weeks have been very revealing to me about the process of categorizing and prioritizing our desires and of tracking and recording the process of repentence and change we make in our lives.  I hope to make some very sincere changes in the way I view the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation in the next year...
 
Anyways, today we hiked to one of the hightest points in Wisconsin.  :)  Seeing as I've lived at a pretty fair elevation my whole life, I found it very amusing.  :)  Elevation 1940 Feet. 
 
Next week's email will probably be much more insincere and dry.  It's just one of those times.  But I hope each of you have a wonderful week!!

--
-Sister B.
 
Pictures:
1. Our Mission
2. Us on one of the highest points.  (I think they said it was the 2nd.)
3. Me on the lookout tower (which was higher than the rocks.  View was AMAZING.)




Monday, June 10

# 74

What-ho?

Heather and Ian got baptized Saturday!!  :D  :D  :D
There's always a few points of each baptism that seem to stand out and define the experience.  I think for this one, it was when we were standing with Heather after she'd been baptized.  She was all drenched in her jumpsuit and holding a towel around her shoulders, and we watched from the side as her son Ian also was baptized.  She had a soft smile on her face that showed so much peace of mind and heart. 
I don't know how I could be so lucky to be here! 
Anyways, sorry for the lack-of-writing last week.  On Saturday night Sister Lybbert began to have difficulty breathing, and a doctor in our ward recommended we go to the ER.  (Side Note: I've only been to the ER 3 times in my life, and all 3 were on my mission.  Weird.)  They did some extensive tests, x-rays, CAT scans, etc, and in the end they couldn't find anything particular wrong.  They gave her an inhaler and sent us home (at 12:15 AM.  Woooo!)  She was getting enough oxygen, so we weren't super worried. 

But the next day it only intensified and by evening, after she got a blessing, we all decided she should go to the ER again.  That night we were admitted so they could monitor her and give her steroids throughout the night.  (Another Side Note: I've never slept in a hospital before.)
We stayed the next day and they did some more tests/scans/etc.  The kept us another night and by the next day, still having no conclusive causes, they released us both with a return check-up set for the next week.  (She was still getting enough oxygen and not responding to any treatments, so they concluded it was psychosomatic.)
Sister Lybbert was a good sport about the whole thing, and by the end we were both VERY ready to leave.  But we had a lot of TLC from the other missionaries and a few wonderful ward members.  :) 
Very exciting.  The rest of the week was pretty hard, but by Saturday, her breathing had cleared up.
Anyways, THAT is pretty much the only crazy thing that happened this week.  It's been cold and rainy for most of the week (which I love, but everyone hates, so no compromise there.)  We were both worried that things would be too messed up for the baptism to happen, but the Lord had other plans in mind.  :)  We have been very blessed.
So that's that.   
Pictures:
1. Sister Lybbert and I discovered a "dramatic effect" setting on her camera.  While in the hospital we took a lot of zombie pictures.  This is me and our lovely Sister Snow.  :)  I already looked like a Zombie because I couldn't figure out till the second night how to recline my chair into a sleeping position.  ;)
2. Baptism!  Heather, Ian, and her daughter Janelle.  (She turns 8 next month.)  Also, Bro. Woodruff, who baptized them.  (Yes, he is descended from Pres. Woodruff, and he's the local newsman.  Cool!)
3. A barn.  

--
-Sister B.




Monday, June 3

# 73

Please forgive me, things have been a little crazy, and we do not have time to email much this week.  All is going well!  I will write more substantially next week.  :)  Love you all!

--
-Sister B.

Tuesday, May 28

# 72


It has been a fantastic week!  Cathy was baptized on Saturday, and she is doing marvelously.  She recieved the Gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday, and after sacrament meeting, she leaned over and whispered that she had felt it--running from the top of her head down to her toes the minute the Bishop had placed his hands on her head.  She is so happy with her decision.  :)  She is already anxious and excited to go to the temple and do baptisms for the dead! 
 
And we press onward.  :) 
 
Sister Lybbert and I are really focusing on finding now.  We've been doing a lot of biking and tracting and trying to contact people the Elders had worked with before we came.  It is exhausting and sometimes discouraging, but everytime someone lets us come back we are charged up to keep going another few weeks.  :) 
 
It is strange to me that even now (and with greater frequency) there are things being brought to my attention that I need to do much better as a missionary.  I feel like every day I have a variety of epiphanies that only serve to remind me that I am imperfect, and that I still haven't "got it" as a missionary.  Sometimes you get so burdened down you just cannot feel successful and you cannot feel the same drive that you used to.  Lucky us, we have friends and family (or missionary companions) who remind us of our successes and our gifts.  :) 
 
I am so grateful for Sister Lybbert.  She keeps me on track--both in accepting my weakness and expecting better every day.  I guess the Lord didn't send us here to feel "good about ourselves" all the time, but to learn to have the courage to accept and seek correction while still finding joy and excitement in life. 
 
In fact... I guess all of life is like that.  
Cool.
 
I read a cool talk this week about the veil that seperates us from God.  :)  We are teaching a sweet lady about the Gospel, and her greatest struggle is to understand why God would keep us from fully remembering him.  This talk really clarified it for me, and hopefully it will help her understand as well.   
 
 
I know God's plan for us is perfect.  And I love when we are prepared enough to recieve a little further understanding on exactly how it's perfect.  :)  Hopefully someday I can understand perfectly why it is perfect.  Until then, I love having prophets, teachers and families to help me understand in quiet and unexplainable ways. 
 
Pictures:
1. Zone Conference two weeks ago.  :)  My last one!! :(
2. Cathy was baptized!  :D 
3. Our backyard.  :)  We live on such a beautiful property.  Don't be too jealous of the green...

Have a good week!
--
-Sister B.





Monday, May 27

# 71


Another good week.  :)  We've been biking as much as possible, and at first I was SO SO sore, but now I've adjusted and we've become a spectacle in our skirts.  :)  It's a good way to start a conversation with the people we see.  We pull up and it usually goes like this:
 
"Hey!  How is your day going?"
"Pretty good, yours?"
(We brake to a stop.)
"It's wonderful!  Good weather for biking.  Can we share a message with you?"
"About what?"
(We get of our bikes.  I probably get tangled because of my skirt and fall off, which is a good start because people feel a lot more comfortable with me once I've made a fool of myself.)
"Sorry about that.  Haven't got the hang of riding in a skirt.  We are sharing the Book of Mormon today.  Have you heard of it?"
"No, can't say I have..."
"Well-"
 
And we go from there.  :)  It's lovely!
 
Kathy is getting baptized this week, so keep her in your prayers if you can!  She is such a wonderful lady with so much faith.  :) 
 
Helping her get ready has occupied a lot of our time, but we are still working on finding new people to teach.  The weather's been lovely, but we had 78% humidity the other day and I was pretty sure I was going to die. 
 
Speaking of humidity, today we caught a frog.  Pictured below.  We'll release him after we show him to our Ward Mission Leader's kids.  :) 
 
1. Frog.  We named him Blibby (after us.)
2. I like this sign. 
3. This fawn was found under the Elders car a few mornings ago.  The mum came that evening to pick it up.  It just sat and looked at us with it's big brown eyes.  Didn't mind if we got close.  :)  

--
-Sister B.