Sunday, February 23, 2014

Still

Since I haven't written a blog post so far this year, I thought I'd take the chance to do so right now. I used to plan beforehand what I write, but it seems like a lot of my latest blog posts (with the exception of a few) have been kind of random and stuff. This blog post will be one of the random ones.

It's interesting to think that only three or four months ago, my plan was to be in Las Vegas at home right now. Timmy comes home soon, and Logan leaves soon; my plan was to spend time with them during my off-track because I love those guys. In September, I thought that was what would be best for me. That was my plan, and I kind of forgot about it. On the way home for Thanksgiving, however, I started thinking about it again, and I felt pretty strongly that I needed to reconsider my decision and maybe stay in Rexburg for my off-track. I pondered it out, and I felt it was what I really needed to do. The only challenge for me would be giving my little brothers the news; I knew they were excited to have me around.

My little brothers probably didn't realize it, but it was so hard for me to bring that up because I was worried they wouldn't understand. Well, sometimes I forget those guys are grown up; they understood, and they told me that I needed to do what I felt was best. With their approval, I decided to come back to Rexburg with barely enough money to pay my first month of rent and health insurance. Looking back, it was actually kind of risky. I literally spent every dime I owned to pay for those two expenses, and I remember getting here and thinking, "Oh crap. I still gotta buy food!" Luckily, I was comforted by the fact that I did have a job and I did have the opportunity to make some instant cash by donating plasma. It all worked out.

Still, I really struggled the first few weeks here on my off-track. I don't think anyone in the world knew it except maybe my siblings, but the first few weeks of this off-track semester were some of the loneliest times of my life. I was staying busy with work, figuring out what I am going to change my major to, working out, trying to maybe go on some dates, etc. BUT I felt left out. People were always busy doing school work while I felt like I should be working on an assignment or two myself. A week or two passed, and it turned into more than that. I started to think that I had no friends here at school. Even though it probably wasn't true, I had so many nights where I was sitting alone at home thinking stupid, delusional stuff about how everyone in the ward was doing all these fun things without me. (Yeah, dumb stuff like that.)

A few Sundays back I was having an especially bad day and all those delusional thoughts were sticking with me. I was positive that everyone in the ward who did talk to me was just doing it to be nice and not because they really wanted to be my friend. (Again, yes, dumb stuff like that.) It eventually reached the point where I was really hating myself for choosing Rexburg over Las Vegas and thinking that maybe it wasn't what God had in store for me. But I remember sitting there after church that same Sunday after church and just really praying that maybe one person would show more love to me than a simple "hi" or "hey." I was so sick of being lonely; I just wanted to have one positive experience with someone that would maybe give me some confidence and take me out of my delusional, I-have-no-friends mode. 

Again, I don't feel it necessary to say what happened or who it was that reached out to me, but it was definitely an answer to my prayers. And you know what? Ever since I received that answer to that prayer, things only keep getting better and better. It was at that exact moment on that Sunday that I felt so much love, and I was reassured that I indeed made the right decision to stay at Rexburg. It sounds extreme, but as bad as that Sunday started, it ended up being one of the happiest days of my life. 


I guess what I am trying to say consists of two things: First, if you are feeling alone or if you are struggling, never give up! Keep doing what you know is right. Keep praying for the Lord's help and guidance. It may not come in the way we imagine or the way we want it, but I know that it will come because God loves us so much! Second, you never know when you will be the answer to someone else's prayer. If you ever feel prompted to talk to someone or to walk with someone that looks lonely or discouraged, JUST DO IT. You never know when you will be a mortal angel to those who may be struggling.

Thank you for letting me share. Too blessed to be stressed!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Briefly: 2013 (In Review)

Man, what a year! As some of you might remember, last year was a little more predictable for me because it didn't take me long to recognize why I felt prompted to stick around in Las Vegas after my mission. However, my purpose in sticking around in Vegas came to a quick close as Timmy, Skyler, and Levi were all on  missions serving the Lord by the end of 2012. While helping them prepare for their missions was one of the greatest and most gratifying experiences of my life, I decided in November of 2012 that I would be moving up to Utah at the beginning of the year.

Although I told everyone I was excited for the challenge, I must admit that I was scared half to death. Yes, my mission taught me how to be self-reliant and responsible, but...this would be the first ever that I would actually be out on my own--no companion following me everywhere, no mission president to give me advice, no money being automatically deposited onto my mission credit card at the beginning of the month, etc. Indeed, the year 2013 was going to be unpredictable and quite the journey! However, despite not having the mission companion, the mission president, or the money, I did have the confidence and testimony that I developed on my mission that everything works out as long as we are working hard and trusting in the Lord--even if it doesn't work out the way we want it to. 

Working McDonalds' Drive-Thru
The first three months of 2013 were spent living on the Berrys' couch in Orem, Utah. (The Berry family is a family that I got to know in Mississippi when my family lived there; they then moved to Orem around the time we moved back to Vegas, and we've stayed in contact throughout the years.) I was very grateful that they were willing to let me stay with them those three months while I figured everything out. As stated earlier, however, it didn't quite work out as expected. Originally, I was supposed to get a job at the chocolate factory with my BFF Chris Berry; however, we learned quickly that that would not work out. I remember sitting in the Berrys' living room my second day there and thinking, "Oh man. Maybe I can't do this?? Maybe this wasn't the right decision?" Long story short, I trusted that I made the right decision, and before I knew it, I was working at McDonalds and staying busy. Even though it wasn't the ideal job, I felt so blessed that I was able to find work so quickly.

My Car That Matt Sold Me
As stated in many of my blog posts throughout the years, my dream was always to graduate from BYU. Hence the reason I applied before my mission, while I was on my mission, after my mission, and one last time while living at the Berrys' house. All four times I was denied, and after the fourth rejection, it hit me that the Lord had different plans for me. I decided to accept those plans, and I enrolled at BYU-Idaho for the Spring 2013 semester. 

My brother Matt (who lives in Blackfoot, ID) sold me his car, and next thing I knew, I was moving from Orem, Utah, to Rexburg, ID. What I thought would be a tough transition actually ended up working out perfectly. I roomed with an old MTC buddy (Danny Hardisty), I had a car, and—best of all—I got a job immediately when I got to Rexburg as an early morning custodian. Like my McDonalds job, it wasn't the ideal job having to wake up at 3:30 AM to clean toilets and do other "dirty work", but it was work! And to this day, I am super grateful for the opportunity I have every morning to go work.

While it was a smooth transition, I must admit that I didn't enjoy my first semester at BYU-Idaho as much as I should have. Those of you who know me well, know that I believe that there is an "order of operations" when it comes to dating. I realized suddenly that being an RM made it a lot more tough to date because it seemed that every girl I tried dating automatically assumed I was dating them to marry them the next week or something crazy like that. Besides the dating woes, though, I enjoyed Rexburg—just not as much as I thought I would.


The seven week summer break was much needed. I spent the first three weeks in Indiana with my sister Kerstin and her family; I spent two more weeks with my brother Brent and his family in Washington. It was so awesome being able to spend time with my siblings and their kids; I was especially grateful for the hospitality and patience they had with me.

However, the break went by way too fast, and before I knew it, I was back at BYU-Idaho for the Fall 2013 semester. My classes were much more challenging, but overall, the semester was so much better than the first. Everyone was telling me that I needed to date more, and I always just laughed and agreed with them to avoid any arguments. In reality, I wasn't expecting to date too much because before going back to school, I came to the conclusion that all girls were the same and none of them would ever understand me. I came to the conclusion that I wasn't good enough at expressing myself and letting the girls know that I was trying to build a strong friendship before anything else. So the sad truth was that I was pretty set on not dating during the Fall semester.

Fall Semester Was Awesome
However, at the same time, I was praying that the Lord would prove me wrong and place some awesome girls in my path to show me that the world was still full of girls that weren't "like the others." Long story short, I met one of my friends the very first day of classes, and as I got to know her those first few weeks, I realized she wasn't "like the others." It was an answer to my prayers, and I ended up dating a lot more than I did during the Spring semester. My life was more balanced; it was three of the greatest months of my life because I was working hard, helping others, and having fun in the middle of all of it.

Even though 2013 was unpredictable and I had no idea what was in store for me, I must admit it was one of the best years yet. Despite all the hard times, I thoroughly enjoyed the lessons and challenges that came with 2013. Looking forward to what 2014 has in store for me! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Small List of Gratitude


My original plan was to write a blog post like this on Thanksgiving, but I realized today that I will be far too busy hanging out with my little brothers to have time to write a blog post on Thanksgiving. So I decided that I would go ahead and do it today since I am off to Las Vegas tomorrow!

I am grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I feel it appropriate that my gratitude begin with what I am most grateful for. I simply cannot imagine where I would be in my life without the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My testimony of the Gospel is sometimes hard for me to express because for me words simply don't do my feelings justice. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been my anchor in the worst of times, and I know that that pattern will continue throughout the rest of my life. I am not the brightest person and there is a lot I don't know, but I do know that Christ is my Savior. I know that He established His Gospel to provide a way for us to be truly happy. I know that if we follow Him, we will be blessed infinitely. I have a very strong testimony of God's plan, and I know that we can live in a state of never ending happiness with our families as long as we follow this perfect example and Gospel that Christ established for us.

I am grateful for my parents. I love my parents; I always have, and I always will. I mean no disrespect to them when I say that they are far from perfect. And I won't even go far enough to say that they are "the best parents ever" because I know they've made a lot of mistakes as parents. BUT they were and continue to be the best parents for me; I know that my mom and my dad are my parents for a reason. I know that's true because I look back on a lot of the things they taught me. I look back on a lot of those mistakes they made. I look back on all of that, and I just think, "Wow. My parents may not realize it, but they taught me so much by saying that" or "Wow. My parents made that mistake, but I'll take note of that so I am never put in the same situation." Again, my parents are far from perfect; but I think that is why I love them so much.

I am grateful to be the fifth of eight children. Man, I am grateful for my siblings more than I think anyone will ever be able to comprehend. I am grateful that I was one of the middle children, because it has given me the chance to really get to know all seven of them really well. I would say something awesome about each one of them, but man, words wouldn't do my feelings justice for this either. But I will say that I am beyond blessed to have my older siblings; they've helped me by setting an example. All four of them have been the best examples of what it means to progress and live righteously. I am blessed to have my three little brothers because each of them have taught me valuable life lessons. Like my parents, my siblings are far from perfect, and they've made mistakes. But I love them so much, and I am honored to call all seven of them my best friends.

I am grateful for technology. I wasn't aware of my gratefulness for technology until after my mission when it was so easy--and continues to be so easy--to keep in contact with the Chilean people that I got to know so well. This year, I've gained an even greater appreciation for technology since my older siblings and I are literally able to text message each other every day in a group chat on our iPhones. It is an awesome thing to be able to communicate with people with today's technology--even if they are on the other side of the world.

I am grateful for my mission. I won't go as far as to say that my mission was the best two years of my life. Heck, when people say that I kind of feel sorry for them because I feel that life should only get better after the mission. I can't speak for all returned missionaries, but I definitely feel that my life has only gotten better since. And the reason is simple: While the mission weren't the best two years OF my life, I am fully convinced that the two years of my mission were the best two years FOR my life. My mission taught me so much about how to love people. It taught me how to be self-reliant. It taught me to never give up. The list goes on and on. Now, I will admit that I haven't been perfect about applying these lessons to my life. I will even admit that I wasn't the greatest missionary. But I will also admit that I have no regrets because the mission taught me so much, and it continues to do so as I often ponder the experiences I had while serving.

I am grateful for my job. I had tithing settlement today at church, and man, it made me think of how grateful I am to have a job. Sure, I don't make a lot of money nor is it the ideal job. But I am grateful for the opportunity I have every morning to wake up at 3:30 AM to go and make some money to purchase the things necessary to live. 

I am grateful for my friends. I am grateful for all the good people who have befriended me throughout my life. I feel that I am a pretty awkward person when people first meet me, and I don't always give the best first impression. But man, I am grateful for all the people who have given me a chance by becoming my friends.

I am grateful for food. On a less serious note, I just want to say that I am grateful for all the delicious food in the world. Here in Rexburg, Costa Vida has been especially good to me. I am grateful for all those who provide that food.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tomorrow's Anniversary

For English this semester, we've basically been working on writing research papers all semester, and so I've been writing a lot these days. I feel that is the reason why I've been in a blogging mood the last few days. Granted, I usually plan out what I am going to write; however, tonight I am just going to type out some of my thoughts. We'll see how it goes. :)

First of all, I was looking back at some of my old posts from back in the day, and I was laughing so hard. It's incredible to realize how immature and ridiculous I was even at the age of eighteen. The funny part about that is the fact that when I was eighteen I really felt like I was mature. And maybe I was for my age at the time. But looking back on those old posts helps me realize that I've at least matured to the point where I don't post ridiculous stuff about The Dark Knight or the most RANDOM pictures and videos. But who knows? I'll probably look at this post another five years from now and think, "Wow. I was pretty immature when I was twenty-three." So, man, maybe it's just a never-ending cycle. That's fine.

The main reason I feel like I am writing this, though, is because tomorrow marks the four (four!) year anniversary of when I entered the MTC. Incredible! This semester I've thought about my mission a little more than usual, and it still amazes me how much I learned and how much I continue to learn from my mission. Even though it was only 1/12 of my mission, it's especially impressive how much I learned in the MTC. Here are just a few examples of the things I learned in the MTC:

I learned an impressive amount of life lessons as a missionary in the MTC.
  • I learned that I was never alone. I entered the MTC a handful of months after graduating high school, and so it was my first real time being away from home. Leading up to my mission, it was something I didn't really think about. I love my parents, and they've always loved and supported me in return. I don't mean this as any disrespect to them, but it wasn't really hard for me to enter the MTC and not have my parents by my side. However, it was extremely difficult to enter the MTC and realize that I wouldn't have my siblings around. My siblings are my best friends, and all seven of them have taught me more than anyone will ever be able to comprehend. And so I remember being in the MTC the first few days and thinking, "Oh my gosh. I can't do this." However, by the end of my first week in the MTC, it hit me that my siblings were praying for me every day, and they wouldn't forgive me if I gave up. Not too much longer after this realization, I was reminded also that the Lord would always be by my side--throughout my mission and throughout the rest of my life.
  • I learned the true power of testimony. All of my teachers in the MTC as well as our branch presidency were so awesome, and they taught me so much. I can't remember who it was, but one of our leaders told us that whenever a companionship within the district  would start fighting/arguing in the middle of class or something, he would have them get up and bare their testimonies. When I first heard that, I remember thinking, "That's interesting. I don't get why that would be appropriate or effective." It didn't take me long to realize just how quick a testimony can change an environment from contentious to an environment of peace. And it's that way because testimonies invite the Spirit of the Lord.  
  • I learned to work hard, but to have fun doing it. While I was in the MTC, I noticed that there were way too many missionaries that would work themselves way too much and stress way too much. Just being around them made me depressed, I will admit. Now, I am not saying that missionaries aren't supposed to work hard. But the MTC taught me that if we are working hard to the point where we aren't enjoying it or having fun, we aren't doing something right. On the flip side, I learned that if we aren't working, and we're just goofing off, that wasn't a good thing either. I learned that there had to be a balance. For example, I remember one day after studying all day, my district and I decided to take my camera with us to gym time, and we did a "photo shoot" of all of us exercising on the exercise equipment. It sounds crazy, but it was fun things like that that helped us both in the MTC and in the mission field.
The list literally goes on and on. The MTC taught me a lot of valuable lessons, and it's just crazy to think that I learned these lessons four (four!) years ago.

With that said, my last random thought for the night is this: I am super  excited for Thanksgiving!! Can't wait to do some road tripping with my little brothers. We haven't road tripped together since last Christmas! It'll be so good to spend a few days with them. Can't wait to joke with them while jamming to some tunes and what not. I am giddy just thinking about it. LOVE those dudes. Oh, and Timmy gets home in FOUR MONTHS and a few weeks!! Just saying.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Too Blessed To Be Stressed

It's been a while since I've blogged, and I have some time on my hands tonight; so I decided to take some time to sit down and write a few thoughts down. I don't promise anything extremely exciting, but I hope at least one person reads and enjoys what I am about to say.

It's football season, and I think everyone reading this probably already know how much I love football--especially BYU's football team. Man, I really do love that team. But my reason for loving BYU's football team might be a little different than the usual BYU fan's reasoning. I am not usually very open about this idea because it's a little strange, but man...I really feel like BYU football has helped me through some of the toughest times of my life. 

Now, allow me to explain myself before anyone calls me sacrilegious or something. Perhaps the best way to do this would be by giving you an example or two. Possibly three:

The first example is really simple and actually has to do with the sport. It was in 2006, and life wasn't the greatest for me as I was struggling through some tough transitions in my life. I wasn't much of a sports fan. I hated sports, actually. But I enjoyed going to my high school's football game in November 2006, and so I decided to give sports a chance. My first opportunity came when I heard BYU was playing Utah. At the time, I didn't realize how big that rivalry was, but I knew it was a rivalry and so I decided to just cheer for BYU since it was the school I always dreamed of attending. 

I didn't know it when the game first started, but by the time that game was over, I would have learned a valuable life lesson: To never give up--even when things seem impossible. How did BYU teach me this? With one minute left in the game, BYU was down 27-31. They needed to go 90+ yards to win. I remember thinking, "Man, it's over. It's not even possible to go that far in a minute." For those of you who don't know, John Beck threw a 15-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Jonny Harline as time expired to win the game. 

That first experience with BYU football was enough for me to continue following them. In the process, I fell in love with their coach Bronco Mendenhall. Not because of his awesome name or because of his abilities to coach football, BUT because of his courage to put faith and the Gospel before football. As a used-to-be sports hater and a lover of the Gospel, that intrigued me that he would do that. And so I've followed Bronco and BYU football ever since.

And in the process I've learned a lot of life lessons from Bronco. Before my mission four years ago, I attended a BYU football fireside in Las Vegas the night before the BYU vs. UNLV football game. I had my mission call, and I was starting to worry a lot about my mission. I wasn't sure if I would be able to pull it off. I was doubting in myself. But attending that BYU football fireside was huge for me. I can't remember what he said, but Coach Mendenhall spoke, and the things he said were exactly what I needed to hear.

Since that experience at the fireside, I've learned a lot from the football players themselves. One of the most impressive things I've ever seen was last year in 2012 when BYU played Utah. BYU was favored to win, but they lost on a missed field goal. I remember thinking, "Man, that really sucked." I decided to watch the post-game show, and when I turned it on, BYUtv was interviewing Kyle Van Noy. I sat there and thought, "Oh boy...He's probably so mad."

Kyle Van Noy became my hero that day, though. When they asked him what was going through his head during the defeat, all he said was something along the lines of, "I was just thinking about what a blessing it is for me to play this game. I was thinking what a blessing it is to play with my team mates."

Even more impressive was this year when again BYU was favored to win. Kyle Van Noy had never beaten Utah. He was 0-3. This was the year. I was positive it was. I'm sure KVN was positive it was. Heck, every BYU fan was positive it was. But BYU lost 20-13.

Kyle Van Noy's reaction?


Too blessed to be stressed. Again, KVN taught me that when things don't go our way in life, we just need to count our blessings and focus on what we do have.

And these are only a few examples. The list could go on and on, but it suffice me to just say that I am really grateful for BYU's football team and the things they've taught me--especially players like Kyle Van Noy and coaches like Coach Mendenhall. Football is just a game that I've learned to enjoy, but BYU football is a program that I've learned to love because of the small lessons they've taught me--on and off the field. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Guardian Angels

I feel that it is too often that when we think of seeing an angel, we think of having experiences such as Alma the younger when an angel actually descended from heaven and visited him face-to-face. While it is not wrong to think of having such an experience, it is important to know and understand that God has more than just this method of reaching out to us. In the October 2008 General Conference, Elder Holland taught:

"I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind."

Elder Holland teaches us that we are literally surrounded by angels. I've listened to this talk many times, but it wasn't until recently that I gained an even more powerful testimony of what Elder Holland taught. It was a few weeks ago when I was driving up to school from Las Vegas. I don't have the best car, but man, that thing is a fighter, and I had no doubt that it would get me up here! It was starting up still, I got the oil changed, I made sure it had everything it needed, etc. I left Vegas, and that thing was running better than ever. 

And so it was a big surprise when I got to Beaver, Utah, and stopped to use the bathroom...and my car wouldn't start! I called my mom to let her know that I'd be getting to Ogden a little late, and I felt bad because I had told her that I'd give her a ride to work if I made it on time. My car had troubles before, and so I didn't panic; I just tried what had worked before in hopes that the thing would start. After a good 30 minutes or so of trying different things, nothing worked. I still had my mom on the phone, and I could tell she was starting to worry a little. And everything to that point was suggesting that I should do the same and start panicking. But I didn't--especially because my mom suggested I say a prayer--which I did--and I felt comforted and knew everything was going to be okay. 

I was go into every single detail on what happened next, but I will say that after another hour or so, I was leaving Beaver, Utah, after receiving help from a family-owned mechanic shop close to where my car was parked. They didn't charge me a dime, and my car didn't need any serious repairs. It was just a matter of a person more familiar with cars being able to take a look at it. 

I was giving my siblings the play-by-play via our group chat, and when they heard I was on the road again, thanks to this generous family in Beaver, my brother Matt texted back and said, "Thank goodness for guardian angels." It was then that the light bulb in my head went off, and my heart was filled with gratitude. It was thanks to those guardian angels in Beaver that I was able to continue my journey back to school. I didn't get to know these people super well, but I will never forget them; I will always be grateful for the love and kindness they showed me that day. :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Small, Powerful Adjustments In Life

"Just Because You Think Something Is Some Way, It Doesn't Make It Right."-BDN

This week I decided to put a little something to the test. You see, in recent weeks I have realized that I've been a tad malnourished. No, I am not talking about being physically malnourished. Rather, I speak of being spiritually malnourished. I noticed that I had been slacking in reading my scriptures, saying my prayers, having charity for others, etc.

However, even when I was doing those important acts of faith, I recognized something pretty disturbing...I honestly hadn't felt the Spirit in church for quite some time. I was at church physically, and I feel like I learned  a thing or two every week. But I wasn't feeling anything. I felt empty, and so as soon as I returned from my vacation to Washington and Indiana I decided it was time to turn my life around.

It didn't take long for me to realize what was preventing me from feeling the Spirit. I knew immediately that my iPhone was the root of the problem. Now, I am not saying that phones are evil and no one should use them in church. I recognize that they can be effective (for scriptures, talks, lessons, etc.) if used properly. But I also recognize that they can be very distracting. For some, they are more effective than distracting while for others it is the opposite. Unfortunately for me, I fall under the category of people who get way too distracted when I have the World Wide Web at the very tip of my fingers.

Even more unfortunate was that I was allowing something as small and dumb as a phone to prevent me from feeling the Spirit at church. But earlier this week I wasn't so convinced. I thought to myself, "Well, it can't just be because of a phone. Maybe I need to pray harder for the Spirit?" I quickly laughed at myself because deep down inside I knew it was a big problem. I was just being prideful and making up excuses to justify my actions.

However, while I was sitting in my car on Sunday, about to get out and go into the church, I decided to put it to the test. I put my phone into the glove compartment of my car, picked up my "hard copy" of the scriptures, and walked into the church phone-less. And boy, did it work wonders!! I felt the Spirit strongly in all three hours of church, but especially during fast and testimony meeting. There were no distractions, and I could finally give the Lord my full attention during the meetings.

Since then, I have been to two institute classes, and I decided to put it to the test again. I went to both classes phone-less. Same results. Amazing!

My purpose in writing this is not to say that electronics shouldn't be allowed in church. I have no doubt that they can be used effectively. My purpose in writing this is to explain the powerful lesson that I have learned this week. That lesson is this: Each and everyone of us probably has adjustments that need to be made in our lives in order to better feel the Spirit in our lives. They may be small adjustments like stopping to bring your phone to church with you, but they are powerful adjustments. And I am a witness that it's worth it to make these adjustments.