Category: mission

Thoughts on Earthquakes and Mission Phone Call Changes


So I had a crazy experience this morning! I was working on various projects because I can’t sleep well these days and all of the sudden my bed was moving back and forth like it was on a vibrator setting. I thought perhaps on the slats had fallen out and needed to be replaced or something like that. I then looked around and realized it was an earthquake!!! The first was 3.2 and the second 3.8, which might not sound like much to you earthquake pros but it certainly jolted me out of bed!

I have never experienced anything like that before. It was so surreal and strange to feel my house rumbling around. It certainly hurt any chances I had at a normal nice evening of sleep because I got so excited by it. Evidently the epicenter was in Bluffdale, which is just a few minutes from where I live in Draper. Fortunately it was a small earthquake and no damage was reported but it sure got my attention.

corn mission photo

In other totally random news my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, announced a change in mission rules which will allow missionaries to call, text their families on a weekly basis. This may seem like a small thing for non-members of the church but for those of us who served a mission it is huge!

Previous to today missionaries were allowed 2 phone calls a year- one on Christmas and one on Mothers Day.  As an obedient missionary I used to dread the calls because it was a lot of pressure to talk to everyone and keep the phone call to an approved amount of time. One Christmas my companion Sister Hathaway didn’t even make her call it was so stressful.

That said, I think weekly contact with my family, particularly my parents, would have done me a world of good. One of the hardest parts of serving my mission was how lonely I constantly felt. This may seem crazy given I was constantly with my companions 24/7 but sometimes it’s tough to communicate with a companion and they struggled to understand my point of view. The only place I had to vent to was in my journals and monthly letters to my mission president. (You can’t talk to the members about your struggles because you are there to support them not the other way around).


Being lonely also exacerbated any issues I had with my companion and just made the whole situation more difficult. Plus, I was always exhausted all the time (not an exaggeration). If I could have had a moment to talk to my Mom and Dad to get some encouragement it would have helped me a lot.

I can’t help but wonder what my mission presidents are thinking about this. Particularly my first mission president hated the bi-annual phone calls as he felt they were very distracting for the young men who often got to talk to their girlfriends they left behind. I remember he had the elders call the next day to check and see if we had stayed within our allotted time for calls and gave a firm talking to us if we were over. It was pretty intense!

The change makes a lot of sense when you consider most elders are now 18 years old. Dropping all contact with family is quite the ask at that age, and I’m thrilled they are changing this rule. I think for most missionaries it will be a net positive for their mental health, happiness and ability to serve.

What do you guys think about either of these topics? Have you been in an earthquake, even a small earthquake? What do you think of these missionary changes? Let me know in the comments section Thanks!

Screenwriting interview with Melissa Leilani

Hi guys! Many of you know I have dabbled in writing over the years and participate in Nanowrimo each year.  Of course, I also love movies and especially a well written script.  Well, today I had the cool experience today where I got to interview Melissa Leilani and find out what it is like to be a screenwriter.  She was the main writer for a film I loved in 2015 called Freetown.

Freetown is a faith-based film but one that is approachable to anyone.  It tells the story of a man who must smuggle 6 missionaries out of Liberia during their brutal civil war.  Things are tense and Brother Abubakar is a man of practical faith mixed with a healthy dose of skepticism.  It makes him a very compelling character.

What I really appreciated about Freetown is that it told a compelling story and let the messsaging take care of itself.  Unlike many faith based films (that I still find some value in) I didn’t feel it was preachy or forcing a message upon me.  In fact, my friend Yusuf who is Muslim liked the film as much as I did.

Here are both of our reviews:

I think you might find it interesting to watch the film and then listen to the interview about her experience.  However, I also think it will be interesting if you are just interested in screenwriting or writing in general.  It was really cool to hear about her process, the research that went into the film and how she approached characters and faith.

We do get off topic a few times (we have very similar movie and theater taste!) but it was a lot of fun for me.  She has a theater background so her transition from playwright to screenwriter was very interesting.

Anyway, this is only the 3rd interview I have done, so if you have any feedback that would be great.  I hope you enjoy it.

Faith and Loneliness

I have lots of different readers who enjoy my posts for different reasons. I love every last one of you! This is a religious post probably best suited for my Mormon readers but hopefully encouraging to anyone of faith. If religion isn’t your thing don’t worry will be posting about your favorite topic soon. It’s a huge part of my life so it will come up on the blog from time to time. Love you!

missionLately I’ve found myself thinking a lot about my mission.  This year marks 10 years since I came home which has given me pause to think about the decade which has come and gone. Plus, I recently played host to my favorite companion Julia Graves and spent time with a sister who also served around my time Lisa Luddington.  We’ve shared stories and looked back on all we learned during those very intense 20 months (I extended).

Today I went to a homecoming for a friend and it touched my heart to see how strong she has become. I hope she can keep that strength and faith for a decade as I have striven to do however imperfectly.

Called to Serve Him.  No greater work.  No greater chance to become more Christlike
Called to Serve Him. No greater work. No greater chance to become more Christlike

As I’ve been thinking about my mission I realized something special it taught me I hadn’t put my finger on before.  It taught me how to deal with the loneliness of faith.

Let me explain.  There was a time on the mission I was given a companion who was bi-polar and thought that a mission would cure her mental illness. When it obviously didn’t she took her anger out on me and was emotionally and verbally abusive. I was berated as the worst missionary, ugly, stupid, inept, you name it.  Then she would go days with the silent treatment which was better but hard when you have to spend 24 hours a day with a person.

It was an especially hard time because I was trying so hard to be a good trainer and obedient.  We were opening a new area to sisters so I didn’t know anybody and we were far away from the mission home.  On LDS missions you are not allowed to call home, just weekly letters (although my parents did send me flowers. Love them!).

Got to love Indiana corn!
Got to love Indiana corn!

I’m not saying I was perfect because I wasn’t but I was trying to be obedient and I seemed to be punished for that where other people had great training experiences. Plus, how many times can you be told your a terrible missionary before you begin to believe it.

It was one of the loneliest time of my life. That may be surprising because I was with someone all the time but it just goes to show a person can be lonely who is surrounded by people.

pres quist
President Quist helped me so much through that lonely time

Anyway, I thought about coming home but I didn’t want to let my family down especially my younger siblings who needed an example missionary in their lives. I had to call the mission president every night and he helped me to get through every day.  I had a sister swap with my MTC comp Sister Noyes and that also helped.

But in the end I had to turn to my Heavenly Father in a way I hadn’t done to that point. He was all I had to really lean on. I read my scriptures and I prayed so hard my knees hurt. And you know what? He filled me up.  He let me know I wasn’t a bad missionary.  He helped me to forgive her, which was incredibly hard to do.  He loved me and I was not the same after that.  I was in 100% to the mission and while again I was far from perfect I know I was the missionary He needed me to be.

Purdue campus was the new area with tough companion but it was the site of many sacred experiences too

As hard as that experience was, and it was brutal, it gave me a gift.  In the 10 years since I came home there have been lonely times.  I don’t need to go into all of them but just trust me there have been lonely times. I’ve felt attacked, disappointed in the choices of others, angry, frustrated, confused and alone, as all humans do from time to time.

But I’ve always had that time on the mission in my pocket to carry me through.

I had discovered God’s ability to strengthen me during the lonely times and have never forgotten it and never will.

If you are feeling lonely or life is giving you a shellacking (we’ve all been there!) maybe it’s a moment God is trying to turn you into something better, like He made me the best missionary I could be?  Maybe he is trying to make you strong?

I absolutely believe moments of loneliness are essential to understanding the atonement of Jesus Christ and really applying it to your heart. We need it so bad in those moments and only then are we teachable and humble enough to make the tough choices and rely on His mercy completely.
me-in-snow-on-missionNever forget the scripture says

“I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

Mission Companion New Years Reunion

Normally New Years is one of my least favorite holidays. For a long time it was fun but I’ve found it frustrating because it is a very couply holiday and one where I increasingly seemed to get left out. See post New Years Eve Sucks)

Not this year!

This year my friend and former mission companion Julia Graves came for a visit and it was such a treat.  I rarely have visitors that are here just to see me.  My family comes a lot but they have their own house and sometimes I hardly see them because of their work responsibilities and other family things.

Regardless, they aren’t here just to see me and for me to be host and show them around.That hardly ever happens despite my very comfortable guest room! (It’s ready for anyone to come on over!).  So it was so great to have Julia here for a visit and to have fun and reminisce.

She arrived on the 30th and we went to lunch and then got settled in and she was kind enough to join me for our SLOW (Salt Lake Open Water) end of year banquet.  We spent a fair amount of time in the car and had a lot of fun talking with each other.

Then the 31st we went to Blue Plate Diner in SLC and had a yummy breakfast.


And then I had gotten a room for New Years at my favorite hotel- the City Center Marriott in Salt Lake.  It is the place I went when I quit my job in 2007 and so it has always had a special significance (one of the best days of my life!). I also went there for my Eat Pray Love weekend in 2012.

hotel1It’s a lovely hotel with great linens and fluffy robes for all the guests.  They have yummy room service and an amazing pool!  It is one of my favorite places in the world.

I also successfully parallel parked twice! Pretty impressive right?


Then we went to Copper Common- the sister restaurant of my favorite place Copper Onion and it was very yummy!

copper commonAfter that we spent a bit of time at Temple Square and listening to music and enjoying the lights of the city (there was a lot going on this year with  It was the most walking I’ve done since the knee injury which was good.  I felt it the next few days but it was a start. good menThere was a faux light fireworks display but we were so cold we decided to head home and watch the New York ball drop (what a letdown that was.  They didn’t even show the countdown!). But we had a great time with the hot tub and pool and just enjoying the hotel.

hotelWe rang in the New Year with gusto a little early and then crashed! It was great.

happy new year happy new year2New Years Day we went to breakfast at the hotel and then went to the new Living Aquarium in Draper.  I’ve been wanting to go and it was really fun! My knee was hurting from pushing it the previous day so I used my cane and it helped a lot.

The aquarium was easy to work around with lots of animals and fun exhibits.  My favorite was the penguins.

aquarium penguins turtles julia turtlesWe spent about 3 hours at the aquarium, and I have a membership now so if you want to go call me up and let’s go!  Your kids will LOVE it!

After the aquarium my parents and grandma came over and we had fajitas and Mexican food together.  They got to hear all about our memories from the mission.  It is so strange to think it will be 10 years in March since I came home from my mission.  Being with Julia made it feel like yesterday.

Today was the final day of the trip and we went to Bake 360 for breakfast (their new cafe is so delish!).  Then we did some shopping and tried to go to 2 different art museums but they were both closed! (Art was not on our side!).

So we went to the Leonardo.  They have one of those plastic body exhibits and those creepy me out so we just went to the regular exhibits and it was fun.  I thought it was an art museum but it’s actually science and math based.

leonardoJulia wanted to go to Chick-fila since they don’t have them in Nevada so we finished off the day eating some chicken and ended up visiting my Grandma in some extra time.

chickfilaIt was just a great trip and time with a friend.  I am so lucky to have wonderful friends in my life and playing host was a blast.  I loved reminiscing about our mission and all the years since. Julia is also single and we have very similar personalities and are both still active in the church. Our faith is very important to us and sharing it with the Hoosiers has given us a bond that will last forever. I just had the most lovely time.

Definitely my best New Years Eve ever!  A great way to start 2015!

Missionary Age Change- My Thoughts

Any reader to this blog knows that missionary work is very near and dear to my heart. My mission helped me purify my weak layers in every way and become a lot more like my Heavenly Father.  It was a 20 month colossal size jump in testimony, conversion, hard work, a reliance upon God and  a simultaneous overcoming and awareness of my many weaknesses and failings.

More than anything else my mission taught me that I mattered to God and that my life could mean something.  In some ways I wish we didn’t have unpaid clergy and I could do it fulltime still today, as hard as it was, because no job will ever be as important and matter so much until perhaps I ever get the chance at a family.   But even on low days, all these 7 years later, I can look back on it and know that I matter and that God can and will use me to further His work.  How can that not motivate you?

The God of the whole universe needs you!

This is what excites me about the new age change for women (the men I hardly noticed although still significant).  So many more women will have the opportunity to know that God needs them to share the gospel to the world.  Its fabulously important to be a wife and a mother but it can seem constrictive for women who want to have an experience where they see different sides of the church and know that they are needed there too.  It just gives women options and options are empowering.

I cried when I heard of the announcement because I thought of all the girls dying to go and now could.  I thought of the women watching who would have longed to go but the 3 years of life got in the way.  I’m sure their moment of regret and ‘what if?’ must have been tender.  (Listen to President Uchtdorf’s talk that might help! 🙂 ).  I thought of the thousands of people that are now going to hear the gospel as thousands of new missionaries get to preach and teach and become the pillars God needs them to be.

Called to Serve Him. No greater work. No greater chance to become more Christlike (and yes I did wear that pink cardigan every day of my mission)

Even in the last year I’ve thought about my mission many times.  The transition to family ward has felt like a transfer to a new area.  Everything feels different and strange.  You miss your old area but you try to get to work as fast as you can.  I’m still not 100% but I’m trying.  I also think of my mission when life gets hard and I want to give up (and boy can it ever get hard, almost overwhelming)  In those dark hours I often remember my mission and say to myself ‘you made it through with power and strength.  You can make it through this’.  How fabulous that thousands of additional women will now be able give themselves a similar pep talk when facing challenges?  Makes me so excited!

It also makes me excited for scores of more endowment and other temple work that will be done.  When I was 21 I wanted to go to make covenants in the temple but my bishop said I wasn’t ready (which I may not have been), and had to wait until marriage or mission.  I had no prospects on the marriage front and was unsure about a mission.  I believe I needed this so when I went on a mission,  I was SURE, but it was a challenge to my faith at first.  I remember driving by the temple and feeling such a yearning and when I made those covenants it was one of the happiest days of my life.  I’m happy for those girls that don’t have feel that pain, as helpful as it was in my case, and can get right to serving.

I also cried when they made the announcement because I believe the change has an equalizing force in the church.  I love the priesthood and know it is God’s power on earth.  However, sometimes I have yearned for the Relief Society and roles of the women in the church to feel as important.  We always hear of the value of nurturing and motherhood but are never really sure what it  means.  Is it just being nice and comforting others?    Men can do that. Is it just raising children? Some of us can’t do that.   I just see this change as a step in the right direction of putting an equal importance on both gender’s ability to share the gospel and the need the church has for both priesthood and womanhood.

Finally I cried because of the advantages it will give sociologically to the church.  What I mean is men and women will basically be the same age and many have the same experiences during their college years instead of the 2 year, I’ve been on a mission, gap.  A gap in both education and experience that does and is eventually made up by almost all girls.  However, when one perspective dater has done so much and is 2 years older it creates an interesting dynamic when courtship and marriage eventually occurs.  I like the prospect of as equal life experience dating as possible.  I don’t know if that makes sense but it does in my head. Sorry.

In any case, the 19 year old girls should be able to get more life experience one way or another and hopefully marriage age in the church will go up and the long strain of the single experience may not be so difficult.  These are just hopes and projections.  Obviously we will just have to wait and see.

At the very least it gives young women options they didn’t have before.  It gives them the choice all the sooner to be come rocks in the Lord’s church as my mission did for me.  Good luck girls and if anyone wants to mull over their decision with me I’d love it.  I love talking about missions and missionary work!

I do have a testimony that we have a living Prophet, President Monson, and that this change is of divine revelation from God.  Because of that alone, I know it will be a blessing to the Church and World.  Go forth to serve!

Missions are SUPER HARD but they are powerful and profound

Here is the press conference on the topic if you had any questions

A Temple In Indiana

This weekend I enjoyed the semi-annual General Conference of the LDS church. During this bi-yearly event the leaders, including the apostles and prophet, speak on a variety of topics such as faith, charity and strengthening family.  While this instruction was fabulous (I took 17 pages of notes!), the most exciting moment of the weekend was the Saturday announcement by President Monson of 5 new temples- one in Indianapolis, Indiana! As all blog readers know I served my mission in Indiana from 2003-2005.  I loved my mission but it was a huge purifying experience physically, mentally and spiritually.   For once in my life I left nothing on the table.  I worked as hard as I possibly could, and found everyone I needed to find.  It may sound cheesy but I left a part of myself on the streets of Indiana- my blood, sweat, tears and prayers.   Sometimes I wonder if I could do it again?  I really don’t know. It was an amazing experience and completely worth it to bring souls to the gospel but it was very difficult.

With my sacrifice and that of many more, the work has continued to grow in the great Hoosier state; however, I was skeptical a temple would ever be built because of the many temples in surrounding states- 2 in Illinois, 1 in Michigan, 1 in Ohio and 1 in Kentucky. To my delight with the faith of the Saints and the work of the missionaries the need for a temple in Indiana could not be denied.  They have not announced when construction will begin or where the temple will be built but if you are interested you can see updates at  I am so excited!

It’s overwhelming for me to think of the increased missionary work and the blessings that will come to the great people of  Indiana with a temple nearby.  I struggle with the words to describe my emotions.  I am so happy!  I remember one time in Angola walking in the snow, my feet near frostbitten, and thinking “this will be worth it someday.” I’ve had many days when it was “worth it” including each time I felt a connection with the people I served with.  Since I came home my mission has continued to be a daily motivating factor in my life.  Whenever I face something difficult or challenging I know I can do it because I finished my mission.  I know the Lord will help me and that my life is important to His work.  When President Monson made the Indiana temple announcement, Saturday became another “worth it” day!

Here are some photos of the mission…


One of my favorite photos of Sister Meyer, Servito and me.Btw- I wore this sweater set like everyday- thank you Lands End!




Here I am in the memorial in the center of Indianapolis



Me and my most special comp Sister Julia Graves



Got to love Indiana corn!



Sister Servito and I spent weeks tracting in the Angola snow



Me and my wonderful trainer Sister Hamill- she put up with a lot! I was really prideful.



my favorite mission photo because it was Kris Warnock's baptism on the day after Christmas and such a special companionship (Notice the pink sweater again!)



I had an interesting moment of clarity today.  With long-term tenants in most of the houses I am not getting the kind of work-related emails I used to get.  September is also traditionally a slow month for the rental business; however,  I don’t want you to think I haven’t been busy because nothing could be further from the truth.  I’m afraid as soon as one business slows down another picks up!  In fact, on  Thursday I was up till 2 am doing taxes for Grabber. Despite this work, lately I haven’t been getting very many emails both personally and professionally. I also haven’t gotten many comments on facebook or my blog.  I’ve gotten some just not as many as at other times.

Today I was bemoaning this lack of internet correspondence when I realized something funny.  Since last Wednesday I’ve had a plethora (yes plethora) of company including a well attended book club and visits from two of my sisters- Megan and Anna.  During their visit my guest room and new sofa bed were both used (the sofa bed for the first time) to which they gave rave reviews so friends come and visit!  In addition, we also spent a lovely evening with our long-time friend Emily Alvillar Whitman (former roommate and best friend I’ve mentioned many times on this blog).   On Sunday I also had the pleasure of seeing my nieces and Megan’s extended family at Luisa Gough’s house.  To add even more blessings, today I had lunch with my Grandma Wagner and Aunt Jodie.  After that Anna came with her roommate Becca for a movie night.  I could keep going about my plans for the rest of the week but I won’t bore you except to say that I have some plans.

As I was cleaning up from Anna and Becca’s visit the irony of this weekend struck me- I was missing my electronic conversation when the entire time I was surrounded by REAL PEOPLE!  How greedy can I get?  I thought it such a funny realization I had to share it immediately with my electronic friends!  Thank you to everyone for the visits and friendship- both through the internet and actual human contact but especially the latter.  I am so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.

On my mission occasionally we would come across people who were truly lonely- men and women who had nobody to lean on when times got hard.  One woman in particular that stands out in my mind. She was in Bloomington, IN and her family had disowned her for joining the church.  In addition, her only son had taken his own life years before.  Naturally she had the church to lean on, but she was a terrible pack-rat and a bit of an odd ball.   It was interesting because she lived in a big sprawling house  from the 20’s or 30’s (it even had a dumb-waiter) which she  completely filled with stuff.  There were entire rooms that could not be entered they were so full of stuff (junk really).

To be honest I can’t even remember this woman’s name but she has always struck me as an example of a lonely soul surrounded by meaningless objects.  Whenever my possessions start to feel too sentimental I think of her as the ultimate extreme and it gives me pause.  I am so blessed to have an abundance of love in my life.  I have an amazing family that supports me, friends that reach out and new acquaintances that enrich my life.  How much more blessed am I that I frequently get to see these people live in person!  No more complaining about email for me! I am one lucky girl!

My Weird Self Image and Other Updates

So I haven’t posted for a bit.  To begin with I had a lot of make up work to do in both my jobs after being sick so long.  The next reason is I have been exercising like a maniac at my new GYM!!!  Yes, I finally decided to step my exercise to the next level and join a gym.  It was a hard decision because the only gym nearby that had a pool  (an absolute requirement) is at the top of my price range ($69 a month).  The gym is called the Treehouse Athletic Club and is about 5 minutes from my apartment.  Treehouse is actually a great deal for families but they sock it to the singles (I’m sorry but you think it would be the other way around.  I’m only one person!).  Weeks ago I asked my facebook friends whether I should join a gym and one of them said “make sure it is somewhere you want to be”.  This sounds obvious but is not the case with most gyms.  They are usually “too body builder, show-off my weights, I’m a total tool”,  for my taste.  On the other end of the spectrum I have done Curves once before but its expensive for what you get and doesn’t provide classes, a pool or any real cardio.

With these expectations I went in to Treehouse last Monday for a trial day and it was like they knew I was coming.  There even happened to be a swim instructor there who gives tips on your stroke twice a week.  Need I mention that the pool blew me a way and the spa was even better.  There are 2 hot tubs, 2 pools (one for laps, one for child play), tons of equipment and weight machines and classes galore.  Plus, the whole environment felt so relaxing.  They have fluffy bathrobes, shampoo, conditioner and body wash in the showers, deodorant spray and lotion in the changing rooms, a swimsuit dryer, and nice hair dryers.  In the words of my friend “this is a place I want to be”.  After weighing the options, on Thursday I went in and paid the year-long membership (got a 10% discount for paying upfront) and have been using it like crazy since.  Anyone in the Draper area who would like to check it out let me know.  I have a few guest day passes. There have been times when I’ve joined gyms before but this time feels different.  This whole fitness quest has felt different.  I’m now at 285 (that’s 28 lbs lost since March) and working to get down to 250 asap.

Speaking of 250…the other day I was watching TLC when a weight loss program came on.  The idea was to profile people who are trying to lose 100 lbs.  One of the men on the show was nearly 500 lbs- clearly a huge problem.  However, the girl they profiled was 258 lbs, and they were acting like the two amounts were identical in scale.  I will be thrilled when I get to 250 lbs but that’s not really what bothered me.  I genuinely see myself and certainly myself at 258 lbs as beautiful not some grotesque human being as this show was portraying.  The woman wouldn’t look at her wedding pictures because she was so horrified at her weight.  They even interviewed her parents who said how disappointed they were in their obese daughter (Isn’t that awful! I wish I was making this up).  I’m not trying to defend being 250 lbs.  I know it is unhealthy in many ways but isn’t it strange that I have such a different viewpoint than the producers of this show or the woman involved? When I look in the mirror (even at 285 lbs) I see a beautiful plus size girl.

This is not the first time that I have noticed my unusual degree of self-acceptance.  When other people are apologizing and criticizing themselves I often feel great.  Of course, I have moments of self-doubt and discouragement but usually not because of my behavior, performance or body.  In fact, Megan is always laughing at how freely I compliment myself.  I simply respond,  “I live alone. If I don’t say it no one will!”.   For example, when I cook a new recipe or try a different technique I will tell everyone at the table if the food is delicious (my former roommates can attest to that!)!

Several years ago another example hit me.  I was an obedient, hard-working missionary-not perfect, but I can honestly say I tried my hardest each day.  When I got on the plane leaving Indiana I knew in my heart I had found everyone I needed to find, and worked as hard as I could.  I left with NO REGRETS.

I naively thought all good missionaries felt this way and had this same reassurance from the Lord.  A couple  years after the mission Julia Graves came to visit me, and we met up with several sisters from our mission to see both our mission presidents.  When chatting with President Simmons I said

“the great thing about a mission is it is the one thing in life you can do with no regrets.  You can know you served the Lord 100%”.

I was not saying this to boast or brag about my great mission.  I really did think everyone felt this way; however, when we got in the car one of the sisters said

“Wow, sister Wagner. I wish I felt that way about my mission.”.  Then all of the others agreed with her.

I can’t overstate how surprised I was by their reaction. It made me step back and realize my many blessings.  I knew then Heavenly Father had given me my sense of peace and closure to a very physically, spiritually and mentally draining mission.  I didn’t specifically pray for this reassurance but the Lord knew I needed it.

I was thinking about this experience and the 258 program when I realized perhaps my acceptance of my body has also been a blessing.  Maybe the Lord needed me to be happy with myself until I was ready to change.  He needs me to be actively serving, loving and trying my best no matter what my weight is. He also loves me regardless of my appearance.  Last year I read a book called the Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl, and I hated it with a passion.  The thing that made me mad is the author portrays her heavy self as practically worthless- like a big blob incapable of interacting with friends, family, or participating in activities such as travel or other recreation.  I promise that when I lose weight I will never look down on the old me.  I have value and am beautiful even at 285lbs, and I don’t care if  some stupid TLC program or book says otherwise!

True to the Faith…Legacy of Pioneers

Today is a holiday in Utah. We celebrate the arrival of the Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.   This first party led by Brigham Young was called to leave their homes for the third or fourth time- most of them in a matter of hours.  Gathering their few meager possessions and loved ones, they willingly left all for a better, more free life.  This exodus on the heels of the murder of the prophet Joseph Smith and the  extermination order by the governor of Missouri Lilburn W. Boggs calling for the “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State”.  In the country founded by religious pilgrims and Christian ideals they were literally kicked out because of their faith.  Making things harder  is that the initial party only knew they were heading west – no more.  Brigham Young didn’t even have an exact idea of the final destination. While on the way Brigham Young happened upon famed tracker Jim Bridger who discouraged the Great Basin as an eventual landing place for the Saints.  Bridger claimed the soil was too salty for crops and the winter’s too frigid.  He recommend they move on to California’s more furtile lands.  However, Brigham Young knew the Saints needed a place that other’s found undesirable, so the Saints could have the peace and space to prosper.   Eventually arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham and his counselors climbed Emigration canyon and exclaimed by revelation “this is the place”.

The Mormon pioneers continued the exodus until the arrival of the railroad in 1869.  While still difficult, most groups traveled without serious problems.  This all changed in 1856 when two handcart companies, leaving late, found themselves in the middle of a brutal Wyoming winter.  Hundreds died of exposure, fatigue and even despair.  Finally, word came to Brigham Young of the suffering and he sent relief parties out immediately- halting all further addresses at the General Conference, which was occurring when he found out.   To rally the people Brigham Young said:

“The afternoon meeting will be omitted, for I wish the sisters to go home and prepare to give those who have just arrived a mouthful of something to eat, and to wash them and nurse them up. You know that I would give more for a dish of pudding and milk, or a baked potato and salt, were I in the situation of those who have just come in, than I would for your prayers, though you were to stay here all the afternoon and pray. Prayer is good, but when baked potatoes and pudding and milk are needed, prayer will not supply their place on this occasion; give every duty its proper time and place.”

Even with relief, hundreds died in the Martin and Willie handcart companies.  The suffering and sacrifice was great.   Here is an emotional video with President Gordon B. Hinckley describing the price that was paid for religious freedom by the pioneers:

I often think- “Could I have done it?  Could I have been a pioneer?”.  I know that I am a pioneer in some aspects of my life, but I do not physically suffer for my beliefs.  Could I do it?  The simple answer is- “I don’t know”.  I suppose many of the pioneers didn’t know if they could do it before they were forced on the path.

The closest I can come to estimating my physical stamina for my faith is my mission.  Compared to the thousands of miles walked by the pioneers, it is nothing, but to me it was a grueling experience.  With my foot condition I was in serious pain everyday.  Sometimes I handled it well and at other moments I wept in pain.  This was one of the many difficulties of a my mission.  Why did I keep going? The simple answer is I knew it was true.  I wanted to tell the people of Indiana that  God does speak to a prophet today,  He does love us, the Book of Mormon is true, and His gospel has been restored.  This was worth any sacrifice .  The few people I was able to teach made all the achy feet seem like a small price to pay (or at least medium price!).  I am grateful to my companions for walking slow with me and putting up with my bad days! I wonder if the pioneers had bad days where they complained about their aching feet and muscles?  They probably did!

Still, as a group they were amazingly optimistic- even taking time for joyous events while on the trail.  When I think of my mission I had tough days when I wanted to give up, and I was certainly not pushed as hard as the pioneers in any way.  How did they do it?  How did they hold on to their faith so hard that they not only kept walking but danced at night and held concerts to sing the hymns? They even had a band, which preformed along the way.  It’s an inspiration!

I hope  I can face my small challenges with the same courage, happiness and religious devotion as the pioneers.  I challenge all of you to look at their example and with me, try a little harder to serve the Lord each day. This way their legacy will not be wasted or counted for naught.

The pioneer anthem was Come, Come, Ye Saints .  Please listen to it and remember the sacrifices they made on this pioneer day!

All Worn Out

Do you ever have one of those days when you could fit the descriptions in a Zoloft ad? I had such a day today.  Now don’t get worked up- I am fine.  It is all because I worked hard Saturday and Sunday, so Monday I feel exhausted and a little irritable. It is days like these that I am glad I live alone- although my poor sister Anna had to listen to me vent for about 10 minutes this evening. (Thanks Anna).  There were little things that irked me today but really I don’t even have a good reason for feeling irritable. I just do.   As my family knows there are three things that make me cranky- hunger, fatigue, and pushy/bossy people.

I hate it when people try to tell me what to do- especially when my idea is perfectly valid.   It was one of the greatest challenges of my mission to be told what to do all the time.  On a mission you are told when to eat, what to eat, how to dress, what to say, everything…Plus, you are told most of this by 19 year old boys and I was a college graduate on the mission.  I have always had a prideful streak in me and although I have tempered it a lot in the last few years every once in a while it flares up.  I like to try things out for myself.  I hate being told how to live my life, plan an activity, lead a group or pretty much anything else.  Does that drive any of you crazy?  Probably not!

I did get to have some fun today.  First of all I  enjoyed the hot tub at one of the houses. That helped me relax a lot. In fact, I may have relaxed too much! I reread one of my favorite books Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes. I read all 147 pages in one hot tub sitting. After I got out I realized I had been in there for 2 hours! This was probably a stupid thing for me to do but it did relax me after a very stressful weekend. I needed lots of water and lotion after that!

There is something about working Saturday and Sunday that is grueling. On Saturday I cleaned one of the houses, purchased food for an event, cooked the food so I wouldn’t have to cook much on Sunday, and then went home and crashed. Then Sunday I went to church and up to the event where I did more cooking, serving, and cleaning. Again, it was all great- just exhausting. So, as a result today I felt tired and a crabby. I found myself getting annoyed by people I should have ignored, situations I would usually ignore, and other silly things like how messy my apartment is.  I even felt frustrated at 24 and the Tony Almaeda plot (how can they make him undead, evil, good and then evil again in one season! It’s too much!).  I had to stop watching Glenn Beck because I was getting too fired up.  Oh well, don’t we all have those days…. Please tell me we all have those days!

Well, excuse the above rant.  I suppose we are all entitled to one every now and then.  Don’t get me wrong- I love my life.  I love my job.  It’s just one of those days.  So, I am off to bed and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.