Monday, November 16, 2009

Time Out for Women

I'm so not Molly. Anyone who knows me would probably agree. Not that being Molly is a bad thing (take no offense Mollies). Anyway, I'm as surprised as any of you to have found myself attending a rather Molly function this past weekend...Time Out for Women presented by Deseret Book. It was a two day conference held at the Salt Palace. I went with some long time friends--Maree & April as well as April's mom and sister Rachel. All I can say is that April must have been inspired to invite me all those many weeks ago because this conference was exactly what I needed. I laughed, I cried, I laughed so hard until I cried and I learned a ton.

A lot of what I heard really helped to validate and reconfirm things that I am experiencing in my life. Feeling this "God confidence" (i.e. peace of conscience) really helped to increase my self-confidence. I feel like my heart was very open and receptive and I was touched by so many things. Allow me to share just a few:

  1. If the veil were thinned and we could remember who we stood by (Jesus Christ) and the covenants and commitments we made to Him and each other, we could begin to fulfill the measure of our creation. Sister Nelson said we all have a "pre-mortal commitments to do" list and that as we seek after these commitments and follow the associated promptings we will become more our true selves and find joy in fulfilling the measure of our creation. I believe I have been experiencing this to some small degree as of late.
  2. As women, and particularly as latter-day women of God, we have a unique influence. Who am I influencing? Who and what am I allowing to influence me?
  3. The adversary has 3 main tactics to derail us from our divine potential: a) he tries to confuse us about who we really are (divine daughters of God); b) he tries to keep us from understanding the Atonement and how God can help us; c) he tries to keep us from learning how to receive personal revelation.
  4. It is crucial that we know not only who we are, but who we have always been.
  5. We have the ability to create a little piece of blue heaven even when we are surrounded by dark heavy rain clouds. We need to cultivate optimism--cheer and happiness are choices we actively make.
  6. You can go to sleep with the assurance of knowing that God is still awake. One sister has a plaque in her kitchen that reads, "At the end of the day I turn all my problems over to God because I know He'll be up all night anyway."
  7. As the Christmas season approaches, we need to ask ourselves, "Is there room in my heart to let in the miracle of God's son?" (comparing this to Joseph asking if there was room in the inn for the imminent birth of the Savior.)
  8. Appearances can be an outward manifestation of an inner commitment. But do we spend so much time on the appearance that we neglect or fake the inner commitment?
  9. Giving up our will to Heavenly Father may just be the hardest thing we do, but it will change us in ways we can't comprehend.
  10. Of course Heavenly Father will give us things we can't handle--why else would we need the Savior? What He will not give us is anything that we can't handle when we rely on the enabling power, the grace of Jesus Christ.
  11. A sense of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself and your circumstances is an extremely powerful thing.

That's only a sampling of the many truths that were imparted. I love hearing the gospel related in such down to earth and humorous ways. There was great power in being assembled with over 3,000 other women who were all there for the right reasons. For all you Mollies and non-Mollies, if you ever have a chance to attend one of these conferences--DO IT!!

On a side note, we escaped the hectic atmosphere at the Salt Palace to have a nice quiet lunch at The Beehive Tearoom. I love quaint little random places in this city and if you haven't been to the tearoom, you should definitely check it out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A mighty change...

Ezekiel 36:26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."

If you have been around me over the past few months, you will have noticed that I have become a very changed person in about the last six weeks or so. Such a noticeable change that while my boss was on vacation she got numerous emails saying that it was like she had a new person working in her department. So much so that a housekeeper I never talk to came up to me and asked why I was smiling so much now because she had never seen me smile before. So much so that people have wondered if I am taking medication or have started dating someone (neither of which is the case.) So much so that people tell me I even look different physically.

On one hand, it makes me very sad to come to the realization of what an unhappy, miserable person I must have been...and for quite a long time. But on the other hand, my heart is so full of gratitude for the change I have experienced and the new outlook I have on life. I guess my purpose in blogging about this is to document it for myself, but also to explain a bit of what I have gone through in hopes that it may be helpful to someone else.

Becoming such a miserable unhappy person didn't happen overnight. It was a gradual and subtle process influenced by many factors. The weight of life's daily stresses, my own unfulfilled expectations, neglecting things I should have been doing, being critical of myself and others, you name it. Each one of these little things, unattended and undealt with, hardened my heart more and more with each passing day. I chose to turn away from God and embrace my anger, bitterness and unhappiness. I hated the person I had become, but didn't know quite what to do about it. I felt consumed by negative thoughts and emotions. I was unhappy about practically every aspect of my life.

In May, I was at my wits end and didn't want to live my life like this any more. I decided to meet with my bishop to see if he could give me any guidance. He explained to me that what I was experiencing was extreme spiritual discouragement but that I shouldn't be too hard on myself. He taught me that it was an inevitable part of my discipleship and that this discouragement existed because I wanted to be a better person. But that in some ways I was creating my own distress because the natural man in me was trying to manipulate my circumstances to be what I thought they should be instead of trusting God's design for my life.

He told me that certain aspects of my life circumstances are part of the plan that I agreed to before I came to Earth. They were pointed out to me and I understood and agreed to them. He told me that the mere act of being on our knees and giving thanks to God for our trials and life circumstances will change us. This would require the understanding that these trials are tailored to my personal spiritual growth and to help me increase in faith. He recommended that I read a book called Spiritual Lightening by M. Catherine Thomas (great book!)

I learned a lot from this book but it was hard to internalize it all. Here are a few of the ideas that stuck out most to me:

  1. In most cases, the actual details of the elements of our lives matter less than what we choose to become in the midst of them.

  2. When we move toward the light, immediately the great plan of redemption is brought about unto us (Daniel 10:2 "Fear not [Alyssa]: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard.")

  3. Resistance to our spiritual natures manifests itself as guilt, despair, resentment, self-pity, fear, depression, feelings of victimization, fear over the scarcity of needed things & other forms of distress (this described me perfectly!!)

  4. It is easy for us to live on the assumption that we have a right to be satisfied by life events and by the people in our lives. But those that we have relationships with were not given to us to satisfy us, nor were many of the most important events of our lives. Our expectations are a function of the futile mind, the telestial, selfish and self-serving mind, not the mind of God.

  5. We have been endowed with the divine power to generate positive energy--mentally, physically and spiritually--by carefully choosing attitudes, actions and words according to the teachings of the scriptures. We can choose to generate positive spiritual energy to which the Spirit of the Lord is attracted, with which He connects and which He magnifies for good.

I could go on and on, but that will do for now. Suffice it to say that this book holds many profound teachings. But as I mentioned earlier, at the point that I was reading this book, I was not yet at a point to fully internalize it or apply it to my life. In fact, just now as I have been reviewing my journal to write this blog I am just starting to realize how the gradual application of what I read has played such a big role in my change of heart.

Anyway, I digress. Meeting with the bishop and reading the book were helpful but didn't really make a significant change for me. I think this may have to do with my own pride and my inability to let go of my perceived suffered injustices, etc. But as we learn from the Book of Mormon, "blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble..." Seeing as how I did not choose to humble myself, the Lord saw fit to compel me a bit.

In the span of a few weeks time, four of the main pillars of my life were turned completely upside down. I felt like my little snow globe life had been turned upside down and shaken vigorously and that I was left in the midst of furious flurries, wondering how the pieces would all settle. I was angry and discouraged. I am a strong person and felt that I could handle maybe one or two major trials...but four at once? How could that be fair? Or possible to overcome?

I felt overwhelmed. It was all I could do to get out of bed and put one foot in front of another. When the fourth, and most unexpected, pillar was overturned I really questioned my ability to recover and ever find happiness in my life. I was so very angry with God. I could not comprehend why He would do this to me. I reached out to friends and family for comfort but despite their wonderful efforts, found little relief.

There comes a time, or maybe at different times in our lives, when we hit rock bottom. My rock bottom came on a Sunday afternoon. I had gone to Liberty Park to try to clear my head a little. I had my ipod and a little notebook with me. I sat myself under a tree and began listening to one of my favorite church cd's--Journey Toward Zion by Jenny Phillips. Although I had heard this music numerous times, on this day the songs spoke to me as if they were written specifically for me and I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. I had so much pain in my heart, so much sadness that it was almost unbearable. On a page in my notebook, in all caps, I scribbled the words, "I CAN'T DO IT ALONE GOD. PLEASE HELP ME!!"

I truly believe that that moment in time was my turning point. I had been compelled to be humble. I released my pride. I turned to my God. I submitted my will to His. I put my trust in Him. And immediately the plan of redemption was brought about unto me. In the following days I somehow began to put into practice the idea of creating positive energy. I came to understand that I really can choose happiness. My life circumstances have not changed. But my attitude has. And taking back my own free agency to choose happiness and optimism is the most liberating thing I have ever felt. The weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders because I turned to God. Interesting to realize that perhaps the weight of my world was my will---the will of my natural man.

Doctrine & Covenants 58:3-6 "Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand. Remember this, which I tell you before, that you may lay it to heart, and receive that which is to follow. Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause have I sent you--that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come."

We read that scripture in Sunday School the very day I had my breakdown in Liberty Park. It touched me at that time. It inspired me to trust that God did have a design for me which I could not comprehend at that time. I know that there are many parts of that design that have not come about yet, but I am prepared at this point to give testimony of the blessings I have received from that day to now. I am a different person, a better person, a happier person, a kinder person. The Lord has mercifully removed my heart of stone and has given me a heart of flesh. For that I will be eternally grateful. Now it is up to me to continue to do the things that will keep my heart soft and pliable in the hands of my Creator. Thanks for letting me share my journey with you.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I've lost that bloggin' feelin'...

It has been many a month since I last posted on my blog. And even longer since I made a substantial post on my blog. At this point, who knows if anyone out in cyberspace even bothers to check my blog anymore. Have you ever noticed that we often become that which we most despise? I used to hate going to a friend's blog only to see that they hadn't updated anything in ages. Now I am that person. Shameful, absolutely shameful.
I think the biggest reason that I haven't blogged in a while is that I have been having an affair with Facebook. There, I admitted it. I cheated on Blogger and I think I may even love Facebook more. It's less time intensive, it gives me something in return...almost instant gratification if you will. Status updates, quizzes galore, online chat...what more could I ask for? Blogger has never given me so much power at my finger tips.

But eventually I guess we must return to our roots so here I am. I guess for now I will just throw in a few little tidbits about what's been going on the past several months in hopes that I can slowly get back into the habit of blogging. Where to begin?

Let's head back to March 2009. Probably one of the two most significant things that happened that month was, first, that I attended the open house for the Draper Temple. What a beautiful building! I can't believe how many temples are in the Salt Lake Valley alone! Which, here is the shameless plug...from now until August 1st, there is an open house for the Oquirrh Mountain Temple. It is free and open to the public. They just ask you to make an online reservation for certain times to help with crowd control. You can make a reservation by clickig here: http://http//,12357,1921-1-597-0,00.html

Secondly, I went on a trip to El Paso, Texas and it's not-so-beautiful sister city Cd Juarez, Mexico. There were a few of us from work that went on this "fact-finding mission" to explore options for making changes to our outreach clinic held there. Border cities have long been dangerous places, but with the escalating warring between drug cartels, Juarez is now considered "the most dangerous city in the Americas." Fortunately we have not had any problems at our fact, I feel as safe going to our clinic now as I did when I started going 7 years ago. However, that does not change the fact that Juarez is EXTREMELY dangerous and anything could happen at any time. Our fact-finding mission was not entirely successful because there only real viable option is to move the clinic across the border to El Paso and our border patrol is not willing to cooperate to make that happen. Anyway, I'm ok with that because the clinic itself runs very well...the only problem with it is it's location. And again, I feel safe in our clinic because it is literally a stone's throw from the border (I could probaby spit into El Paso if I tried).

Now onto April. Heidi, Hurley and I made our spring pilgrimage to visit my family in California. We ended up dejunking my mom's garage yet again (she ended up with a lot of furniture and other items after my Aunt JoAnn died) and organizing her food storage. We also found plenty of time to play. We went to the Santa Monica Pier, LA Farmer's Market, the tattoo shop featured on LA Ink, Universal Studios and enjoyed America's favorite pastime at a Dodger's game.

Me & the fam at Santa Monica Pier

High Voltage Tattoo, aka LA Ink

Me & the fam at Universal Studios

Heidi and I at Dodger Stadium

April also included another trip down to Juarez, this time for clinic. We knew that we had a large amount of patients scheduled and also wanted to screen as many new patients as possible. To make a long story short, the majority of clinic staff (minus the doctors, who never wait for their "dead or wounded") missed the return flight to SLC. So we spent an extra night in El Paso and wearily arrived the next day.

May's main events were the Bear Lake Golf weekend with the "Ladies Plum Golf Association"--some friends from work that I have been golfing with for the last few years. We had absolutely the best weather of any of our trips and just a grand old time. One of my friends, Angela, has a cabin up there so we always plan our itinerary full of our favorite foods, games, movies and a round of golf. I sure love those girls and look forward to our good times together.

Me, Robin, Angela & Kristen

Best dang food at the covered wagon

Memorial Day brought a trip up to Heidi's grandparents' cabin in Kamas. It is so nice to get away and relax. I really hope that one day I will be able to have my own mountain retreat to escape too.

Now to the present month. Besides the unbelievable monsoonal rains that we've had this month, the highlight of June...and every June for the past 5 years is the annual canoe trip with the LCLC (Labyrinth Canyon Ladies Club). Forgive me for being lazy in recounting the happenings of the trip but two of the ladies have already blogged about it so you can read Kim's account for more details. There are some picutres for your viewing pleasure on Facebook because it takes too stinking long to upload them all here. Here is the album

On a final note, I know some of you are missing the quotes from my crazy ward. Well, today was a doozie that shouldn't be left out. An older sister in her 80's spoke in Sacrament Meeting today. She is a super funny and random lady...if you've read the other ward posts, this is dear Sister Dachsund (who sees Jesus when she looks into the eyes of her Dachsund). Anyway, as she's talking she kind of stumbled over some words and then said, "I hope you heard that ok. I'm having a little trouble with my teeth today. Oh well, at least I found them this morning." At the end of the meeting, she and another sister were to sing a duet for the first two verses of the closing hymn, with the congregation joining in for the last two verses. Well, as she started singing, you could see her top teeth fall off her gums & kind of swim around in her mouth until she chomped them back upwards. This happened a couple of times. At the end of the first verse she said, "Just a minute, I need to take my teeth out." and proceeded to spit them into a Kleenex. She then "gummed" her way through the rest of the song. Priceless, simply priceless!

Friday, February 27, 2009

I'm all out of love...

I'm so lost without you. I know you were right, believing for so long. I'm all out of love, what am I without you. I can't be late to say I was so wrong...

For the 3rd year in a row Analee, Candice, Heidi, Kim and I will be making the pilgrimage to watch two old men relive their glory years...running around on a stage as if it were 20+ years ago. Yes, is time for the annual Air Supply concert. They're back in Wendover this year and I really couldn't be more excited.

I hope you enjoy the picture I chose to represent what our experience will be tonight. The only thing missing is the short guy in skin-tight leather pants. Which I can guarantee he will be wearing tonight. And I can also guarantee that the tall guy will be dressed as above, a bit hippy or even Austin Powers-esque.

I don't know why going to these concerts bring me so much joy. Perhaps it's the 2 hour drive to Wendover, Air Supply's Greatest Hits blasting, singing along at the top of our lungs. Maybe it's the two oldies strutting their stuff as if time has been standing still for them and them alone. Maybe it's trying to take some pictures on the sly of other concert goers with their fashion faux-pas or bad hair choices. All I know is it is one dang good time.

So say what you will, mock if you choose, but as for and my friends, we'll be enthralled to watch Air Supply "Making love out of nothing at all" yet again!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

When RS meets WWE...

This past Sunday provided me with a very unexpected experience...I never thought that church and wrestling would collide but I was proven wrong. So yes, the title of this blog post is "When RS (Relief Society) meets WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)..." If you have read previous posts or talked to me about my experiences in my new family ward then you know I am congregating with quite an interesting demographic group. Hence, the need for a quote book to jot down my weekly experiences and I've now learned, quite possibly the need for a referee. I'll try to do the story justice so here goes:

Things started brewing during the Sunday School lesson. "Sister Feminist", as we will call her, was commenting quite frequently...mainly comments to bash on her husband or men in general. Including her reasoning that "Joseph Smith didn't get the gold plates at first because he wasn't yet married and needed WOMAN POWER." Hmmm... Things heated up when the teacher incorrectly called Joseph Smith's family indignant (unworthy) instead of indigent (referring to their economic struggles.) Sister Feminist felt that it was extremely unjust to call his family indignant but calmed herself down in a fairly short time.

The random somewhat inappropriate comments continued into the Relief Society lesson. The teacher shared a personal experience about being 14 and her family not having a lot of money. She said it was hard for her to go to church at that time because she was the youngest of the group and the smartest and had to wear hand-me-down clothes that didn't quite fit right. The other youth did not treat her well. Sister Feminist piped up and said "Why didn't you just go to another ward?" Teacher: "I was 14, I didn't really have a choice." SF: "You should have just switched wards...mumble, mumble mumble."

Teacher continues on to say that at that point she decided to pray morning and night and read the scriptures more. She finished by saying that because of doing those things she came out of high school much better than most of the people had treated her poorly. Sister Feminist came unglued at this point:

SF: "What do you mean you were better than them? You should never say that you are better than someone else!"

Teacher: "What I said was that I came out of the experience better because of my decisions."

SF: *raising her voice* "Well, that is a horrible attitude to say that you are better than someone else. And you should never have been ashamed for being smarter than those kids. That is a gift from God. But to say you are better than them..."

Teacher: *starting to get flustered, raisng her voice* "Ma'am...what I am saying..."

SF: *almost coming out of her chair, raising voice again* "Ma'am?! MA'AM?! YOU KNOW THAT MY NAME IS LOUISE!! IT'S LOUISE!! MA'AM?!?!?!?!"

--Granted, I think calling her ma'am probably wasn't the best response...perhaps "Sister" or using her name or whatever. But still, SF was waaaayyyy overreacting at this point. People are trying to shush SF to no avail. The Relief Society President (who, by the way, has been very sick and was barely able to drag herself to the meeting) decides to intervene.

RSP: "Louise, let's just calm down. I don't think Teacher was meaning that in the way..."

SF: *interrupting RSP mid-sentence while doing the ghetto girl oh-no-you-didn't head wag (I hope that makes sense)* "OH NO, I HAVE AN AXE TO GRIND AND I WILL GRIND IT HOW AND WHERE I WILL!!"

You could have heard a pin drop....we all sat there with our mouths agape. RSP ran out of the room crying. Teacher turned her back to the class to write on the chalkboard and try to move on with the lesson while SF continued to rant and rave incoherently. A counselor in the presidency says "Louise, why don't we step into the hall for a minute?" SF/Louise: "I'm not going anywhere...mumble, mumble, mumble." More shushing from the rest of of the sisters trying to get her to quit talking.

She continued to mumble and grumble under her breath for a few minutes before exaggeratedly getting up, grabbing her coat and stomping out of the room. It was a very awkward and uncomfortable scene for all of us. I honestly wondered if SF was going to come back with some weapon and go postal on us! The poor RSP eventually came back to the room but then broke down again at the end of the lesson while trying to wrap up the meeting.

Anyway, that's the long and short of it. I hope my "transcript" provided you with somewhat of an idea as to what went on but in reality I think you had to be there to truly grasp the words and insinuations and feelings associated with it all.

At the end of the day Heidi and I felt so bad about the whole thing that we decided to take some cookies to RSP and Teacher. Come to find out from RSP, this is not the first "smack-down" to happen in the ward and likely won't be the last. According to her "We cycle through this every few months and we were about due for a smack-down." WOW!! Guess that gives me something to look forward to. I wonder if I could supplement my social work income by tapping into the WWE's business plan and trying to sell tickets or put it on pay-per-view. Hmmm...better look into it. Sunday's only a few days away! ;)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wintry adventures

I've been wanting to try snowshoeing for many years and on Saturday I was able to fulfill that wish. Heidi's coworker and her husband were nice enough to lend us some snowshoes and take us out on the trail. We were also accompanied by their dog Paws and little Hurley (who did quite well holding his own might I add.)

We loaded up the Subaru (c'mon in SLC, what else would it be?) and headed up Millcreek Canyon. My only other visit to this canyon was for a friend's wedding (gorgeous!) a couple of years ago so I was excited to actually have a chance to enjoy some of the beautiful scenery.

Anyway, I won't bore you with every little detail of our journey, but here are the important facts:

1) Snowshoeing is quite fun and it's nice to finally find a winter activity that I can enjoy.
2) I'm out of shape and snowshoeing kicked my butt a little shocker here.
3) My asthma doesn't do well in the cold...I was super close to giving up and dying on the side of the trail but I'm glad I didn't.
4) this experience reconfrimed the fact that Hurley has no idea how small he is...he thought he could do everything that Paws the 60-70 lb golden lab was doing.
5) I love the mountains of Utah !!
6) I hate the inversion/pollution that blankets the Salt Lake Valley.
7) I want to snowshoe again and perhaps by my own snowshoes eventually.

Inversion over the valley

These poles saved me numerous times!

Me, Heidi and Hurley

At the overlook

Sidestepping the creek didn't go so well...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A new year, a new twin?

Well, first off...Happy 2009! I'm hoping it will be a much better year overall. It is certainly off to an interesting start though. Our church switched to 9 a.m. which is actually a good thing. As Heidi and I were walking to the chapel in the freezing cold I started laughing because we totally looked like sister missionaries in our black skirts and dark jackets. That got us to laughing about how everyone either thinks we are the same person, that we are sisters, or better yet twins. And today we got more confirmation of that. Anyway, first off here our our missionary pictures:

So we get to church so we can print off the programs and greet our lovely ward members. As we enter the chapel, we realize someone has left some pamphlets where the programs normally are. Thinking, of course, that this is something church-related, I pick one up and am very surprised to see the following:

WHAT?! Very random. Good for you if you choose to be a vegan. And I am all for animal rights...although I do enjoy some lovely pork or chicken or beef as well. I guess the major issue here is that leaving these kind of pamphlets in the chapel is completely inappropriate.

Ok, now back to the twin confusion. Even though we have been doing our calling for 2+ months, we have never been set apart. So two members of the bishopric set us apart after the meeting. I go first and give them my full name, Alyssa Lyn Wilson, no problem. Then Heidi goes and gives her full name, Heidi Jean Merryweather. As the counselor is about to start speaking he says, "Oh wait, did you say Heidi Jean Merryweather?!" We're pretty sure that he was about to set her apart as Heidi Jean Wilson. Cuz, you know...we're sisters, twins even!

Just when we though it couldn't get any better, along comes Relief Society. As it is the beginning of the year we are given ward directories and a photo directory of the RS sisters. Last time this photo directory went around somehow Heidi's picture wasn't even in there. Mine was there with my name. Well, here's what everyone has their hands on now (this is 100% true):
Yep, that's a picture of me...with Heidi's name under it!! We were crying we were laughing so hard. HILARIOUS!! I guess the only drawback is that now even more people will be confused about who we are. This is why we have decided to give in and just say yes the next time we are asked if we are sisters. It's not worth the explanation any more!