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.