Monday, December 9, 2013

Peace out NZ. Te u 'alu ki Tonga!

Leaving for Tonga in seven hours.

So excited to see these people: 

 and these:

 and these ones too:

Can't wait to eat this:

and this:

to see this:

and to swim in this: 

So rejoicing right now!

Mele Kalikimaka everyone! Frohe Weihnachten! Kilisimasi Fiefia! Merry Christmas! See yous next year. :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

things we take for granted

I know I write about gratitude a lot, and not to beat a dead horse or anything, but this post is going to be more of the same (and then I promise I'll find a more interesting thema okay?) There are a few things that have been on my mind that I just need to get out.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you live in a first-world country, and you probably have access to all of the comforts and conveniences of life that you need. In such a situation, when was the last time you reflected on how much it means just to be able to move?

What about the freedoms you enjoy? Like being able to express your opinion aloud, to disagree with someone, or to choose which church you go to?

What about having a bed to sleep in? Clothes to wear? Shelter from the elements?

As you know, I have had a boot on my foot for the past month. I was finally able to go a whole day without it just last Thursday, and I'm almost back to normal now, five weeks later. This has been a very challenging experience for me, and I've felt a lot of emotions. Overall though, the strongest emotion is gratitude. I am so thankful for the ability to walk, to be able to get myself from point A to point B simply given enough time. I am thankful for my body and for health--that my body has the resources it needs to repair itself, heal, and recover. I am thankful for the blessing it is to be able to walk up or down a hill, to run a flight of stairs, and to stand straight with weight on both feet. Did you ever stop to think how much your feet do for you? or your legs? And how different your life would be without them? I can walk across a room! I can walk down a block! I can walk across campus to the park, down the street to a shop, around the corner to the square, and wherever else I need to go! I don't have to ask anyone for help! I don't have to take a taxi! I don't have to plan two hours and count in hobbling time and rest. I can be independent and do the things I need to do. I am so thankful for my body.

And as for freedom: I have a very good friend at Uni whom I met at the beginning of our studies. He is from a country where there is a state religion, and to think or speak differently than what the Government says means death. DEATH, people! We are talking about the twenty-first century, yet there are still countries that keep their citizens in spiritual and intellectual bondage--they tear the most important freedom from them (the freedom to choose), and force them to obey or else. Sound familiar Mormons? Sound like Satan's plan?

This has become a great issue to me lately because my friend has begun to investigate the Church. He attends meetings and has read most of the Book of Mormon. He loves it. He has lists and pages and documents of questions. His enthusiasm and desire to know are bursting! He is like a child who has never seen water, when, presented with the ocean, he runs and kicks and splashes and dives and smiles and goes crazy, laughing at the delicious saturation of liquid. My friend has never had the option of doing or thinking something different before, and now that he is living in a country where he will not have to sacrifice his life to do it, he is eagerly on the hunt for all the truth he can stuff into his soul. Watching the zeal with which he embraces learning about the Gospel has been a reality check for me in multiple ways.
  1. Am I as eager to learn and as much in love with the Gospel as he is?
  2. Do I feast from the words as much as he does?
  3. Do I take for granted the fact that I have ALWAYS had the option to believe in what I want to and to worship how I, not someone else, sees fit?
  4. There are people living without these freedoms in their lives. They are not just some news report: they are real; they are my brothers and sisters and potential best friends. 
  5. Where much is given, much is required. Now that I know this ^, I cannot not do something. 

And my last soapbox--as for simply having the essentials of life: My family and I were homeless for over a year. Like literally homeless. We lived in campgrounds, slept on friend's lawns, stayed short times with friends/family, etc. I still remember the discomfort of uncertainty and what it felt like to not know where you would sleep that night, the next night, or the next week. What it felt like to watch my brothers and sisters play at the park while waiting for mom to bring us food from the grocery store--wondering how to take care of them, how long they would last. Wishing to just have a stove to cook a warm meal on. Of what it felt like to live out of a plastic grocery bag packed into the trunk of a car, to have no friends or activities to fill your time, and to wear the same thing day after day because it was all you had. I remember waking up the morning of my 16th birthday on the hard, carpeted cement floor of a motel room where we slept, eight people to one tiny room, mom and littlest kids on the bed, older ones on the floor. I didn't go to school because we didn't live anywhere. And when we did move in for a longer time with friends, it still wasn't home, wasn't comfortable, because we were guests. We tiptoed around, tried to stay out during the day as much as possible, and to keep things clean and untouched.

My point: when was the last time you were thankful for a consistent place to lay your head? For a stove or microwave to heat up food? For your own space to be yourself in?

I remember what it was like to survive like that, and I cry with gratitude that I know where I'm sleeping at night. I still don't have my own place to live and all of my stuff is still packed in bags, lol, but I do have everything I need. I am so thankful.

Friends, our lives are so blessed. People who live without the comforts that we enjoy are not less than us--they are the same as us. We do not deserve, nor were we given the things we have because we are "better" than anyone who doesn't have them. They are simply gifts from God.

So two things: #1-Don't forget to thank Him. And #2: Share what you have with others. Share your food. Share your home. Share your blessings. Most of all, share your love.

Don't take the blessings of your life for granted. Sharing gives us more reasons to rejoice.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Now that November is fast pau, let's teuteu 'a e Kilisimasi!

I know I've written along these lines a little bit previously, but in honor of the wonderful season that is going to be upon us so soon, here is a list of my favorite Yuletide entertainment.


1. It's a Wonderful Life. You already knew I loved this one, didn't you?
2. Mr. Krueger's Christmas. I've already written about this like twelve times, so you know how I feel about it.
3. While You Were Sleeping. There was one year when my family watched this once a week almost every single week from January to December. We just do not get tired of it. (and ps, word to the wise: never watch it with us. we will spend the whole time quoting it and laughing at parts before they come up).
4. White Christmas. My parents taped this from TV sometime in the early nineties, and we have been enjoying it every single season since.
5. Holiday Inn. Oh Bing Crosby. Oh Fred Estaire. Yous are too much!
6.  Meet Me in St. Louis. My mom does not like this movie, because she is not a fan of Judy Garland. I, however, am a fan, and I cry when she sings "Have yourself a merry little Christmas."
7. Home Alone. Mostly enjoyable because it reminds me of my little brother.
8. The Santa Clause. Whenever I see this movie, I remember the first time I saw it: my aunt and uncle took my siblings and mom and I to the theater to see it when it came out. It was the first time I had been to the movies, and I remember the awe of the full screen and feeling so wrapped with love in the presence of my family. 
9. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My little brother loves the Jim Carrey version of this movie, but I'm more of a fan of the animated. I just love the story. Dr. Seuss is like the CS Lewis of the picture book world.
10. The Forgotten Carols. This is actually a play which I love and most of my family can't stand. But I think it's beautiful and I love the story. Written by Michael McLean.
11. The Fourth Wise Man. My mom loves this story. Thus, I love it.

Books and Stories

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I love this book so much. SO.MUCH. Please, please, please read it this season?
The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke. Read this for the first time a few years ago, at the suggestion of President Monson. Enjoy rereading it at least once a year for the reminders that it prompts.
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. This story was a staple in our family's "24 days before Christmas" canon. I still hear my mom's voice in my head when I read this.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. A favorite roommate introduced me to this one. Love it.
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck. Once again, reminds me of my mom. She is the little boy in the story.
The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke. See note about the movie (#11) above.


Christmas is not complete without the hymns of Christmas ("Joy to the World!") but outside of those, the following are some of my favorite Christmas albums and songs:
Handel's Messiah
Bing Crosby Merry Christmas and The Bing Crosby Christmas Album
Michael Buble Christmas
Celine Dion These are Special Times
Michael McLean The Forgotten Carols
Wrangler Country Christmas
The Carpenters Christmas Portrait
John Denver Rocky Mountain Christmas and The Classic Christmas Album
"Do they know it's Christmas?" by Band Aid

Feel free to add to the list. I love this time of year!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

So viele Segnungen

Thirty minutes ago I was disappointed because my library account online says that I owe a fine for a service that I actually already paid for. I knew that if I could just go to them and produce the receipt they would realize their error, so I went searching through my wallet to find it. Even though my little sister often teases me about my ridiculous receipt-keeping habits, for some reason it was nowhere to be found! I was sad thinking of all the work it would be to go to the library and try to convince them that the charge was obsolete, and get them to reverse it. Then, as I was looking for my planner fifteen minutes later, at the bottom of my backpack was a small crumpled piece of thin paper. It was the receipt! Hallelujah.

If I told my office mate--she who is an avowed Atheist--this story, she would think nothing of it. She would say that it was lucky I misplaced the receipt in my bag rather than throwing it away. The other day she exclaimed "Thank the God I don't believe in!" when something good happened--I think when the heat got turned up in our office. I love her a lot, but I feel sad that she does not have the belief and faith that would help her to recognize that the blessings of our lives are gifts from a loving father in heaven who knows and cares for us.

That's how I celebrated finding my receipt--by thanking Him. It was such a small thing. No one knew I was looking for it, or how much I actually hoped to find it, already believing it gone forever, somehow carelessly thrown away. Heavenly Father could very well have NOT helped me find it, and I would still continue to trust in Him. Yet in His mercy, because He cares about the things I care about, small and not, He gave it back to me.

NZ doesn't have a Thanksgiving, but today I am celebrating it in my heart with gratitude for everything the Lord gives to me, big and small, insignificant and life-changing. I am grateful for so many things:
  • That I was able to climb the stairs today for the first time in a month!
  • That I have had the past month of being incapacitated to appreciate everyday of my life when I'm not!
  • For every time I cross the street safely
  • That my lungs work
  • That I am free from harmful addictions
  • Beautiful music. This song has blessed my life lately.
  • Religious freedom
  • All my freedoms!
  • Wonderful memories to fill my mind
  • Wonderful possibilities ahead of me
  • Wonderful people surrounding me
  • Naturally straight teeth (thanks to my dad)
  • Organs that function, cells that regenerate, wounds that heal
  • Clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe
  • Opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone--to change and become better
I really can't begin to list everything I'm thankful for, but how cool is it that there is a holiday focused on celebrating our blessings?! That in and of itself is a blessing. A great opportunity to pause and look around, hopefully, if you are very lucky, gathered among family and loved ones while you do it. Once again, BLESSED.

So happy Thanksgiving everyone! Don't forget to thank the Lord himself, from whom all blessings flow. He gives us so many great reasons to rejoice! 

Psalms 126:3-- The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sat. 23 Nov: I am grateful for fulfilling dreams! I finally got to see "Wicked" on Saturday in Auckland, a show I have wanted to go to for over seven years. Yay for the ability to do things we want to do!

Sun. 24 Nov: I am grateful for the blessings of travel. Met a precious new missionary from Jerome, Idaho. He will be serving in our ward for the next little while, but as of Sunday he was only 4 days in "the field." Bless.His.Heart. Honestly I cringed a little talking to him though--his accent is SO thick, and while it is nostalgic to hear, it also brings back some unpleasant memories for me, of not really fitting in in small-town Idaho, and really wanting to see what the rest of the world was like. Please don't get me wrong. I love Idaho! And I'm very grateful to have grown up there. I love visiting and think I will probably live near there again eventually. But I am SO, SO thankful to have been able to get out and see a little bit of the world and travel and meet new people and figure out where I fit in better. Talking to him reminded me of how blessed I've been to travel, and I am so grateful!

Mon. 25 Nov: I am grateful for whoever planted the flowers and flowering bushes that line the sidewalk of the home just down from where I live. It is a JOY to walk through there everyday and be greeted by the loving aroma of roses and nature. BLESS those who bring that kind of beauty to busy cities.

Tues. 26 Nov: I am grateful for quiet early mornings. I'm trying to strengthen my foot by walking on it without the boot in the morning before I get ready for school. I take my friend's dog with me and we do a very short (but slow) walk around part of our neighborhood. Nothing beats a beautiful, quiet start of a summer day. It brings peace and happiness to my whole life.

Wed. 27 Nov: I am grateful to be Tongan. Today someone stole my lunch out of the refrigerator in the Staff/Graduate student common room. I put it there yesterday, but it was gone today (why someone would want to steal a strange looking lunch of polenta, tuna, and tomatoes is beyond me). I was with a wonderful Tongan friend, and we ended up sharing her lunch--fat, soft Tongan-style white bread spread with butter and marmite--and hot chocolate. She was laughing at the "Tonganness" of the lunch and said she would be too embarrassed to share with me if she didn't know I was Tongan. lol. This is not the first time dual-ethnicity has worked to my advantage. :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wed. 20 Nov: I am thankful for my older sister and that she took the time to put together a package of things I needed from America and mail it to me, at great personal expense--both of time and financially. I am grateful for her constant love and support.

Thurs. 21 Nov: I am grateful for education. I am grateful to be able to read and try and fail and learn and grow.

 Fri. 22 Nov: I am grateful for seasons. I am grateful for the course of life. I haven't had a fall in three years, but it is still my favorite time of the year. I love the coolness and the crispness and the colors on the mountains and the smell of old leaves and seeing my breath in the air and walking into a warm house with chili on the stove. Fall is home to my favorite holidays: I will miss Thanksgiving next week, and Christmas next month. This is the time of year when it is hardest to not be with my family. But there are always new things to enjoy, right? I might try to have my own American-style Thanksgiving next week, if I can, and I will be spending Christmas in Tonga, so that will be a whole new cultural experience for me. I stumbled across this album yesterday and had a shock to remember that it is indeed the holiday season. Crazy how fast it sneaks up. Hope you have great plans for yours.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kau 'Aposetolo

I am thankful for these men. I know they are called of God and are His servants and spokesmen on the earth today. I love them.

Monday, November 18, 2013

still feeling the gratitude

Sun. 17 Nov: Grateful for family home evenings. You already know--I love family. Probably my favorite thing to do is to hang out with my family, and a second best is hanging out with other families who love being together. Had FHE with my newest adopted family on Sunday and loved laughing and talking and praying with them. Delicious.

Mon. 18 Nov: Grateful for the peace and safety of my life, and skyping with old friends. Talked to a friend in Germany for over an hour. Love her. Love that we can still be friends, even on different sides of the world. Human experiences are the same everywhere. And technology is awesome.

Tues. 19 Nov: Grateful for letters from missionaries. Missionaries seem to have special hearts, and their love and prayers mean a lot. Got a letter from my missionary bro today. Made my day. Love him. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

a calling, missionaries, and good examples

Thurs. 9 Nov: I am thankful for church and for my calling in the Young Women's. Grateful to have the opportunity to serve.

Fri. 10 Nov: I am grateful to be able to walk!! And for missionaries and the spirit of God.

Sat. 11 Nov.: I am grateful for the good examples of other people in faith, service, and everything I want to be. Like these people:

And most especially, like Him.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


This is kind of a cop-out post--most everyone is grateful for their family--but I really do have the greatest family on the earth, and I love each and every one of them.

Blood and not. 

They are the best. 

And I am thankful for them.

Monday, November 11, 2013


[not my picture, and I also don't know what most of those dishes are. just wanted to illustrate the great variety we have. looks delicious though, right?]

Today I am thankful for food. Thanks to personal experiences and interacting with people from all over the world, I am very aware of the great blessing it is to have anything to eat, let alone the beautiful, plentiful variety that graces most of our lives. Yay for health! Yay for food!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Doctor's, Church, Sunshine!

Monday 11 Nov: Grateful for good, friendly, sincere and talented doctors and medical professionals who do their best to serve all of their patients. I usually live a medic-free lifestyle, but lately I have become pretty familiar with my local clinic, where I have had to return frequently to have dressings changed on my foot from where it got run over, and see the doctor for further diagnoses. Without exception, everyone I have worked with has been so helpful and kind. I am grateful for their good attitudes and help.

Sunday 10 Nov: I am grateful for the sacrament, and for church. I am grateful for one day a week that is set apart from all others to be able to set aside all the worries and cares of regular life and just focus on Gospel and the Lord. It is rejuvenating and healing to me.

Saturday 9 Nov: I am grateful for sunshine, and the mood-elevating powers a beautiful day has.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

prayer and rain

Friday, 8 Nov: Grateful for rain and the calming, cleansing effect it has.

Thursday, 7 Nov: Grateful for prayer. Grateful to have a heavenly Father who knows, loves, listens to, and hears me.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Grateful for green and grateful for people

Thursday, 7 Nov: I am grateful for the landscapes of this world that the Lord created. There is so much beauty!!! From city skylines to remote wildernesses, from homey villages to pine tree forests, this is a beautiful world.

Wednesday, 6 Nov: I am grateful for people. I have a theory that most people are nice. Most people are just like you--just trying to do their best and live a good life and work with what they've been given. Most people understand that kindness is essential, and most people generally try to be a good person. I experience the blessings of good people all around me almost all the time, and I'm grateful for opportunities to interact with and learn from others.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Someone please turn off my foot! and other random thoughts

 It is past two o'clock in the morning and I can't sleep--my foot is hurting too much. I hope hurting=healing, but all I can think right now is that I also wish there was an off switch. Painkillers only do so much.

In other news:
  • I have officially been in New Zealand for ten weeks. Usually I have a two month "hate" period of adjustment to a new place when it is really, really hard, followed by three weeks of semi-consignment before I learn to love where I moved to. Not so here! Although I have experienced a few depressing days of struggle and homesickness, I have loved and been at peace about being here since day one. It has been the easiest transition to a new place I've ever had.
  • I woke up a couple of Tuesday's ago and suddenly driving on the left side of the road was normal. Now I'm trying to remember how we drive in the states and it seems strange.
  • I have successfully integrated use of the words "yous" and "keen" (as in, "are yous keen to see a movie tonight?") two very important entries in the Kiwi Urban Dictionary, into my everyday vocabulary.
  • Tunics and leggings no longer look strange to me.
  • I have ceased wearing three layers everywhere I go. This is due in part to the fact that it is getting a bit warmer! But I am also adjusting.
  • I'm turning white again. :( It is strange how this affects me psychologically. Sad day.
  • I have been called a hippie twice in the past four months. I think because I travel and like healthy food. Go figure.
  • I have watched Mr. Krueger's Christmas three times in the past three days. No, it is not Christmas. But this movie speaks to my soul, remember? I love everything about it. And JS and I are still bosom buddies.
  • The two most important spices to have on hand are salt and red pepper flakes.
  • The top two things I miss about being in a Tongan ward are #1: the hymns and #2: passing around babies. I miss all of my kids.

Endnote: For those of you who may possibly be contemplating moving to a new place or country, or for those of you who have new people around you, I have something else to encourage you to keep in mind which may help you if you are new somewhere, or trying to welcome someone who is. It is this--

It is not easy to move, and it can be exponentially harder with every mile further from the life you know best. This does not mean it's not worth it! But it is  hard. It's hard to move to a new country. It's hard to adjust to a new language (this time for me it's English, but it is a different kind of English) and a new culture. It's hard to live with people who aren't your family, and it's hard to feel lost everywhere you go.

It's REALLY HARD to start from scratch, making friends. It's EVEN HARDER when you're a single 25 year old girl in the church--everyone assumes you've served a mission. Then when they find out you haven't they ask if you've thought about it (as if you are secretly unrighteous and unfaithful and don't want to serve the Lord), and suggest that you give it a go. And then when you still don't go, especially when you're 25 and a girl and single, everyone assumes that you're desperate for a husband, so A) none of the boys make eye contact or talk to you because they're scared you're going to drag them to the Temple right there or B) people think there's something wrong with you since you're not married yet. AND since you're in a new country and know no one, no one knows that there is nothing wrong with you, in fact you're pretty awesome, it's just REALLY REALLY REALLY SUPER HARD to have to prove that to the thousand people you first meet all at once.

You may not know these things happen, but they do, and are the kind of experiences that can make you feel alone, frustrated, annoyed, impatient, small, and lonely, and reduce you to tears every time you come home to your still-unfamiliar, cold, and not-quite-home apartment. Sometimes it's really hard.

BUT I testify that the Lord has angels, and He sends them to help in situations like these. Every time I've been on the verge of tears here, someone has reached out to me. I can't express how much it means, just to be surrounded by generally friendly people who are not afraid to smile at a new girl, or ask her name. Angels in my life have come in the form of people who invite me into their homes, accept me in their families, and truly want to understand and know me. If there is someone new around you, reach out to them! Chances are that they are a wonderful person you will come to love, and you may never know how much your friendship means to them.

If you are new somewhere, remember that in the beginning it's always baby-steps. Deeper friendships come in time. Look forward to scheduled activities--go to church on Sundays, basketball on Tuesdays. Institute/volunteering on Wednesdays, and try to find something to do to stay busy all weekend until Sunday comes around again. That's life. Some days are easier than others. Some days are still hard. I've experienced lots of both. But for those moving somewhere new I say this: stick it out. If God says you are where He wants you to be, no one can say you don't belong. I know this is where I'm supposed to be and I wouldn't throw in the towel. Not over not having friends. Not over being cold. Not over feeling lonely or shy or frustrated or old or poor or stupid. I will not quit, as long as I know I'm supposed to be here. My ancestors are pioneers, and their blood is in me. Their strength is in me. With the help of the Lord, I can succeed here. And with His help, I know that you can succeed where ever you are or go too. Life is an adventure! And the adventure is a great reason to rejoice!

Monday, November 4, 2013

die Schriften

Thankful today for the scriptures. Grateful for ancient and living Prophets and for the word of the Lord to edify and instruct me. I notice when I fail to do the "small things," aka read my scriptures everyday, that is always when I struggle more in life. Reading the scriptures daily, even when I don't remember everything I read, helps to stabilize my life, and fills me with deeper faith, humility, hope, and love.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fakamalo ki he 'Otua

Hola peeps.

As I sit here typing this, I am in the Waikato area of New Zealand, a beautiful, ever-green region of rolling hills and lush valleys just over an hour south of Auckland. I am attending a PhD writing retreat for a few days, and I guess the administrators either find the landscape here more effective for their students away from the hustle and bustle and responsibilities of the city, or they enjoy the get-away themselves. We're being housed in a beautiful college built on the Marae of a local Maori tribe. There are french doors in my room, and when I look out I feel like I'm home in Idaho--maybe the Snake River valley area outside of Pocatello or the Boise River gorge in Meridian. There are cows grazing near a lake down the hill from where I'm sitting, and I can see the wispy clouds and colors as the sun goes down over to the left of me. Welcome to Albion, New Zealand, lol.
I can't enumerate all the ways I feel at home and love being here. The glowing orb of happiness, joy, and light inside my chest is back, and it's hard to keep from smiling almost all of the time. Of course that doesn't mean that life is ohne Schwierigkeiten, but I can't imagine feeling more blessed, more happy, or having a more sure knowledge that I am where I am supposed to be. Life is truly beautiful.

[wow! I real life picture of me! haha, I finally borrowed my friends camera :) ]
 In the spirit of my gratitude for my current situation, and because we have made it around to my favorite time of year once again, here's to kicking off my Thanksgiving month with daily postings of the things for which I am grateful. (Apologies, since I have no internet at home and have been semi-bed ridden the past week [got hit by a car--foot is in a boot], I'm including gratitude posts for the past few November days as well). Even if it's just in a small way, I hope that my lists will help you to see the beauty in your own life as well. Because truly, no matter our situation, in the US, Berlin, Nepal, Norway, or down here at the bottom of the world, we all have great reason to rejoice!!

Monday, 4 November 2013: Grateful for technology, which among other things enables me to communicate with my loved ones around the world, as if we are still sitting together.
[this pic is actually from when I was in HI, but the concept is the same]

Sunday, 3 November 2013: Yesterday I felt especially thankful for prayer, and also for fasting. I was reading a talk entitled "Blessings of a Proper Fast" in the afternoon and the author wrote this: "Fasting can help us overcome personal flaws and sins. It can help us overcome our weaknesses—help them become strengths. Fasting can help us become more humble, less prideful, less selfish, and more concerned about the needs of others. It can help us see more clearly our own mistakes and weaknesses and help us be less prone to criticize others."

I add my testimony to his. I have seen these blessings come in my life, and am so thankful for the opportunity to petition my Father in prayer for guidance, forgiveness, help, and so much more.

Saturday, 2 November 2013: On Saturday I thought all day long how grateful I am for whoever invented the moon boot (hard, cast-like boot for walking when your foot/ankle is injured). I would be in so much more intense pain, and so much more immobile as well, without this wonderful invention to help at this time when my own foot can't support me on its own.

Friday, 1 November 2013: On Friday I was grateful for pumpkin cookies, and my achievement day teacher who taught us how to make them and gave me the recipe when I was eight years old. They've been blessing my life and keeping me happy (and chubby :) ever since.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

what I REALLY think about Jesus Christ

Lately I have been feeling more and more gratitude for my Savior Jesus Christ, and He has been on my mind a lot more frequently. A few weeks ago I was asked to give a talk in church on this article with the prompt, "What does Jesus mean to us today?" I've been thinking about that question since then, even after my speaking assignment. When I see people on the street, hear stories on the news, or think about things going on in the lives of people I know, so often the thought comes to mind, "the Savior can heal that." The following is a list of some of those things I've thought of, and how they apply in our day. 

  • Because of the Savior, we will all live again. I had a good friend die recently. He was just 31 years old and spent the last seven months of his life in a coma. He was newly married, and after just two months of "real marriage," his wife got to watch him slowly slip away over days and weeks and months from where she was sitting everyday next to his hospital bed. The pain she has experienced through that has been tremendous, and she continues to struggle--a widow at 27, all their plans and dreams and hopes for the future gone. But because of the Savior, I know that my friend lives again, and I know his wife will see him again.  
  • Because of the Savior, we can be with those we love forever. If they accept the Gospel and take part in the eternal sealing covenant, those like my friend and his wife can be together forever. My grandma passed away in 2008. It's incredible how much I think of and miss her. But though I miss her, it is without pain--I know I'll see her again. Time goes by so fast, and the day will come when I will be able to hug her and hear her voice once more. Because of the Savior.  
  • Because of the Savior, our sins can be forgiven. We can be better tomorrow than we were today, and truly change. I have a very good friend from college who committed a very serious sin several years ago. The consequences of his choice included being kicked out of school, sent back to his home country, shamed publicly, and losing his fiancee, his athletic scholarship, almost all of his friends, and a great deal of pride. But I had the opportunity of stepping into the baptismal font in a temple with him a year later, where he was wearing white, completely forgiven, cleansed, and changed. He was not the same man he was before or when he committed that sin. He was new, and he was whole. Because of the Savior. 
  • Because of the Savior, we can be healed from pain. This is a big one. It includes being healed from the pain and embarrassment of small things, like feeling rejected when someone you like doesn't reciprocate, to the pain we experience because of anther's choices. It's not something I talk a lot about, but I have a long past history of extreme abuse. Often when people find out about it they are very surprised because I "seem so normal" or as one lady told me recently, "for having a history like that, you are very smiley." That's just the point! The Savior can heal us so completely from bad and hurtful experiences, that though scars remain, we can still live a beautiful, happy, wonderful life, no matter the dark places we may have been stuck in at any point. Because of the Savior, we can be happy.
  • Because of the Savior, we always have a friend. I now live more that 7000 miles from my closest friends and family. I have spent most of my adult life away from them, in fact, and while I always miss them and love them greatly, the separation is made so much easier because I know that I am actually not alone. None of us are ever truly alone! Because of the Savior. And I just have to say something more about this--prayer is such a blessing! I have felt so close to my Heavenly Father lately as I have tried to really talk to Him, to pour out my soul. I know He is there, and I know He hears. I know He cares.

There are so many reasons to love and be grateful for the Savior. I can't list all of them here, and I think that because all of us have different trials, He probably means many different things to all of us. But I challenge you to try this test: ask yourself, "What does Jesus mean to me?" or "Why does Jesus matter in my life?" Such an exercise, at least in my experience, is a blessing. It opens our eyes to all the ways we are so dependent on Him, and how lost we would be without Him. I love Him. I am grateful for Him. I stand with President Faust in declaring, "To the question 'What does Jesus mean to modern man?' I testify that He means everything." 

And because of Him, we have great reason to rejoice. 

Peace, love,

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Who's ever heard of America's Cup?: why I'm cheering against my homeland

Something that is making me smile lately is watching all of the excitement, tension, and hype over a boat race taking place right now in San Fransisco--America's Cup. Ever heard of it? I haven't, at least not till I got here to New Zealand. Apparently it's like the sailing Olympics. It happens every four years, and since Auckland is the city of sails and yachting is a national past time, you can guess that it's a pretty big deal around here. As one person who was explaining its importance to me said, "it's the only thing that New Zealand is really good at."

I think there are a whole lot of other things New Zealand is "good at" (peanut slabs, meat pies, nice mountains, cool accents...) but they are definitely very good at sailing, and I have found myself cheering for them against Oracle, the American team, as they've raced over the last ten days or so. Every day, barring any unforeseen weather difficulties, there are two races. Here in New Zealand they happen at 8:10 and 9:10 in the morning, respectively (PS New Zealanders say "ten past eight and ten past nine" and it's very funny to me), which means that, since the whole country is watching it, life doesn't really start till about 9:30 everyday (half past nine :). The teams race around in the ocean following some imaginary lines only sailors can see, and try to be the first team to collect 9 wins. NZ was leading 8-1 over the US recently, then they were 8-3, and now, weirdly (and a bit conspiratorially, according to some), they are tied with the US 8-8. To be honest, I will be disappointed if they lose to Oracle, even though that would be a really incredible comeback story for my own country. I guess it's just the fighter spirit in me. I like cheering for the little guy. :)

PS--I love these commercials. "Lean with Us"


Thursday, September 19, 2013

The City of Sails

Sorry peeps, no personal pictures yet. My friends have a camera they're going to lend me, but I haven't yet remembered to buy batteries for it. Soon though!

Despite the lack of pictures taken/owned by me, I figured I could still give you an update on what's going on down here.

1. I belong to the greatest ward in the world
From my bishop to the Relief Society president to every sweet aunty and brother who has kissed my cheek or shook my hand every week, down to the precious primary kids who already smile deviously at me and yell "hey Kesaia!" when they see me, I could not feel more at home or more welcome. 

2. I love where I live!
New Zealand is like Ireland! Green, green, green everywhere!

3. I love who I live with
I could not be more well taken care of, even living in my mom's house. The family I stay with makes sure I eat, that I am staying warm, and that I have  everything I need. I love them. I love that they care about me.

4. Institute is awesome!
There is a HUGE church institute program in Auckland and it is a great way to meet people and take church-related classes. There's even an institute building only a ten minute walk from my office! It has been WONDERFUL to retreat there some days, and I try to go even if just for a few minutes most days so that I can practice the piano and feel the spirit a little bit.

5. Shivering 60% of the day is a great way to burn calories!
For real. You should try it.

6. Flavored tuna is a delicious invention
Who knew, right??? My favorite lunch at the moment is a generic brand of Tuna with a Thai Sweet Chili flavor and rice crackers. The "sweet" part of the name is kind of misleading--it's super spicy. I love it.

7. Traveling to the south pacific is so much cheaper when you live in it!
Honestly. You can get RT airfare to most of the pacific islands for between $300-$400. And you can go to Australia for $200!!! In case you're wondering, I'm totally going to Australia while I'm here. Maybe early next year...

8. Idahoans are surprising people
They do things like move half way around the world for grad school, meet their spouse, and settle here to stay (I'm not talking about myself. I'm talking about a girl I completely randomly sat next to on a bus who ended up being from BOISE IDAHO. The odds of that are astoundingly, infinitesimally small. It was a crazy experience.) 

9. Being tall is great
Everyone takes it for granted that you're an famous athlete and want to meet you. :) (but instead of asking if I play basketball, here they ask if I play net ball)

10. Seeing the world you live in from a new perspective is good
It's been very interesting to watch the news when the weather comes on and see NZ set in a sea of pacific water with nothing above, nothing below, and nothing around. It's strange to me to remember that I live in the southern hemisphere, and even though it's bigger than Maui, it's still an island, and a very, very small country. It feels like the world is upside down when I look at the map.

11. PhD's are not that big of a deal
Honestly. It's just more school. I've decided to give up being intimidated by people with advanced degrees. All that really means is they've spent a lot more time in cold, dusty libraries reading books with pretentious titles and writing papers that almost no one ever read than you have. It's a sad thought really.  You should never feel inferior because you didn't choose to spend your time that way. But what am I saying? That's how I'm spending my time right now, lol. :)

12. Family is fluid
The more people I meet, the bigger my family becomes. It's that simple.

13. Lamb can taste good
No really, it can. You have to boil it forever and a day, but put some onions in with it and eat it with roast carrots and sweet potato.... yum.

14. The Temple is the house of the Lord
No matter where it is. It is His beautiful house.

15. Everyone loves a good Motown jam
Did you ever meet anyone who didn't start snapping their fingers and tapping their feet when they hear the Jackson 5 come on? I didn't think so. Motown is a leveler. It erases the differences between people.

16. Kiwi's are really friendly
I have been to over a dozen countries and lived in a lot of places, but I can honestly say that I have NEVER met a people so friendly and helpful and genuinely nice. Honestly. Even in the big city. People are overall extremely polite and considerate. I love it. I need to improve myself so I fit in better.

16. A quarter century is old, and moving to a new country right before your birthday will probably make you feel lonely
This is self-explanatory. But yes, I am now 25, and I actually do feel old. Especially thinking that recent RM's are still just 21 or 20. When did I become a grandmother in the dating world????

17. Life is so good
And we all have great reason to rejoice!