Tuesday, March 5, 2013

life, lately

What the?!
Two posts in one day?
I know, right?

Life lately has been full (read, overflowing) with challenges. I have shed more tears in the past three months, I think, than in many other months previous. But not all for sad reasons. Here is a list of some of the things that are on my heart lately, for good and also for bad. I feel lucky to have so many.


1. My brother is going on a mission! My adopted brother, who just turned 19 and of whom I could scarcely be more proud, has been called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the San Fransisco/Oakland California mission, speaking Spanish. He leaves in three weeks, and I am emotional every.single.day alternately thinking of how much I love him, how much I'm going to miss him, and how proud I am of him.

2. My back is killing me. This is obviously not a good thing. Here's the LD (read, lowdown, for those of you who don't want to guess at the acronym I just formed): I injured my back several times in my early teens, and since the time I started college have struggled with severe and sometimes debilitating pain. I have been to many, many doctors and tried many, many things. The severity of what I experience varies and I have found things that help and things that haven't, but I have never found a solid reason or cure. In January I was recommended to a sports injury chiropractor with whom I have been doing physical therapy for the past two months. The pain has diminished quite a bit and I have learned to manage it a lot better, but it is still there. For some reason it has been "acting up" this weekend and I have been in distracting and excruciating pain. I had so much to do tonight and my heart set on attending two specific events that are important to me, but due to my back being how it is, the most I can do is lie here on the couch with ice and painkillers and try to keep my pelvis as flat as possible. TMI, I'm sure. Alas, as much as such situations are frustrating, they make me SO thankful for every single day and moment and experience I have pain-free. Also they always remind me that my life is in the Lord's hands and maybe He's just teaching me to be still and slow down. I don't mind lying here if I can learn from Him while doing it.

[1/2 & 1/2]
3. I moved out of my house. This is an event filled with many mixed emotions. I am thankful to have my own clean and quiet space again, but I miss my [adopted] family so much it hurts. Blah. Sometimes I wonder how much further my heart can stretch before .... well, I don't really know before what. But as thankful as I am for all the people in my life to love, stretching hurts too.


4. I have only a few months left on Maui. Not loving this thought right off, so I have to focus on what it means--getting on with my life! Graduate school! My future! But I love Maui so much. I am going to be a tear-streaked bucket of sobs when I get on that departure plane. Hoi.

5. Work has been ueber hard lately. What with stuff going on outside of work and issues that have arisen on the clock, the difficulty of wearing a sincere smile while there since November has been far increased. Are things getting better? Not so far, but I do know that the only thing I can control is myself. My attitude and my spirit are up to me. I'm working on this.


6. One of my best friends moved in with me. Yay for having friends! My roommate of three years, one of my very best friends and a girl I met my very first day in my very first class in my very first semester of school at BYU moved from the mainland to come live with me for the months I have remaining here. It has been so wonderful to have her. To remember who I was before Hawaii and who I still am and to have her here to explore, adventure, and experience with. Blessed.

7. My brother is not making very good choices. I think one of the hardest things in life is seeing someone you love do things you know will cause them pain in the long run. I am praying hard for him right now. I wish he could see an eternal perspective more clearly. Pray for him, would you?


8. I love the gospel SO much. This cannot be overstated. Sundays and Thursdays are my favorite days of the week, because of church and institute. When I'm there I never want to leave. I feel so hungry for the spirit--I just want to drink it up and up and up and up. I can't get enough of the scriptures and church talks and videos and general conference (only three and a half weeks left!) and sharing my testimony and listening to beautiful music and looking at inspiring art. I am so thankful for these gifts in my life.


9. I love my primary children SO much. This also cannot be overstated. Though they once intimidated me to the core, I can't imagine life without them now. I love being greeted by half a dozen strong little Tongan kids bulldozing their way full-speed ahead down a hall or across the church parking lot to call me Sister Cook and throw their arms around me and tell me hi or they love me or where was I today? They even recognize my car! Their pure faith and budding testimonies strengthen mine like no other. I thought recently how blessed I am to serve in the primary--to witness and be able to observe first hand that most faithful group of people whom the Lord encouraged all of us to be like: the little children. His mercies to me seem never to cease.

10. I am so thankful for all that I have. Opportunities to serve and to be alive and health and strength and gas in my car and having a car to begin with and people to love around me and love that others show to me and tender mercies that I see and wonderful memories that fill me when I'm thinking of nothing and a beautiful world to live in and blueberries to eat sometimes and the blessings of work and SWEATING. There is truly just too much to list. And I am happy. There is much that seems to be hard and wrong right now, but there is far more to be glad about. And to rejoice in. I am grateful for it all. I don't mind crying over the hard, because it helps my heart stay soft to be ready to cry over the good made so much better because of the hard. I.Love.It.All.

And I love you. Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Today I met an old man and his wife. They told me an incredible story. He was a high school dropout, expelled for poor behavior at sixteen.  He and his wife married very young and had three children right away. When he was twenty-five, remorseful of his previous decisions and determined to beat the odds despite his disadvantages, he got his high school equivalency and enrolled in college. For four years he went to school full time during the day and worked full time at night. There were no satellite programs in those days, and his commute to school was one hour each way. For four straight years he kept this schedule: leave the house at 7 am, go to school all day, drive home, work until 4 am, get up at 6 and do it all over. Although he was home every night for between three and four hours, his children would kiss him goodnight on Sunday and not see him again until Saturday morning. His wife cared for them during all that time, and they supported each other. After he finished school he became superintendent over the same high school principal who expelled him years before. He eventually went on to earn a masters degree and was able to be very successful and effective working with the troubled youth in his district because he knew what they were going through from his personal experiences. When he finally retired thirty-two years later, without knowing it, he signed the high school diploma that was awarded to him honorarily for his outstanding work and example.

Talk about overcoming your past.

I sometimes wonder why I even keep a blog, since I write on it so rarely. The reason, though, is in the title: this is a record, in part, of reasons I see to rejoice in life. This man's example makes me rejoice. All around me there are children of the Lord in pain. Some of them are victims of other's poor choices, and some are living consequences of theirs'. In most of these instances I know, these kids will grow up to become people who never truly escape from the pit they ended up in. It's easy to blame others, it's easy to blame yourself, and it's very hard to continue trying to improve yourself and your life when it feels like an endless marathon up a muddy grade. What makes the difference between success and failure, I think, is perspective. You have to keep perspective and believe that life really can be better. Perspective equals faith. Faith that you don't have to keep living in that same muddy hole all your life. Faith that you can become the person you desire. Faith that, no matter where you've been, you can still make it where you want to go. Faith that "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isaiah  1:18).

I saw a great example of that today, in the man and the woman I had the pleasure of meeting. I'm so grateful they shared a little of their story with me. To see them now, tan and happy on their annual vacation together to Hawaii, you would never guess where they started. But I imagine that their story and what they've been through together is a major part of the reason why they can be so happy, because they know what they've overcome. I thanked them for their example, and hope to be like them in many ways. Whatever life throws at me, I hope I can always keep the faith and perspective to overcome.