Showing posts with label hope. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hope. Show all posts


Tatuí is a city in Brazil that I served in with two Brazilian companions and an Argentinian I was training. It is in my top 5 of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.

I would live there in a heartbeat. There's not an ugly inch of it anywhere.

Well, there shouldn't have been. The only ugly inch of it was me. I was (Biblically speaking) ass-deep in what I can only call a colonizer's mentality. All I cared about was baptizing people, and I was becoming frustrated and depressed that it wasn't happening for us.

The congregation there was a tiny unit of some of the most dedicated church members I've ever seen. They basically took turns rotating the callings around between the same 4 or 5 families. They were so generous and loving. I cannot overstate that. It was not an insignificant sacrifice for some of them to feed the missionaries. There were times we used our allowance to buy the food that we and the families we were eating with would eat that day. There were also days where we just didn't eat at all.

It was one of those Not Eating days. We were knocking doors simply to have something to do, to pass the time not thinking about how empty our stomachs were. It was later in the day, well past the almoço meal time.

We were walking past a building that was under construction when a little red car pulled up to us. A woman we didn't recognize called out to us. She was the sister of a member visiting from the city. She said she had been looking for us. She had something to give us.

She handed us a whole rotisserie chicken.

We thanked her profusely.

She didn't know us. She didn't know our almoço had fallen through for that day. She couldn't have known that we were hungry. She didn't even know how to find us and drove around the town for hours, looking for us.

She drove away and I never saw her again.

We went back to our apartment and ate that entire chicken between the two of us. That night in my prayers, with a belly full of chicken, I asked for every single good thing I could think of to happen to her. It was all I had to give.

People looked at me and my plastic rectangle and plucky determination thought that's what made me an angel. But there were so many times where I just wanted to shout from the rooftops:


The angel, to me, is the woman who drives for three hours with a rotisserie chicken, looking for someone she doesn't know and then, through the power of her own prayers and determination, finds them.

These were the seemingly ordinary acts of kindness I witnessed in the lives of regular members of the church as they took care of us and each other, guided by something I can only call providence because nothing else seems to fit.

Whenever I find myself needing hope, I remember her. I remember how that chicken didn't solve all my problems, but it was what I needed. Hope is a lot less frustrating and disappointing when it's invested in the things I need, rather than the things I want. The Brazilian people I met made me a better person because of how well they understood this. The art of constructing happiness out of inadequate materials is to meet the needs you can with what you have, and to be satisfied with whatever the result looks like, without complaint.

What I want is the solutions and cures that probably don't exist for a lot of problems.

What I need is the garlic bread my husband just handed to me.

There's the angel and the miracle.

It's enough. 


I've been called as a Relief Society teacher! I wanted a teaching calling SO BADLY, and my bishop said they've had this one in the wings for me for a few weeks now. I'm so excited!

So my first lesson is on The Infinite Power of Hope, a talk from the 2008 General Conference by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. I couldn't have asked for a better topic, or a better talk. It's full of really important information that I feel really confident I can do a lot with, especially in light of almost all of my recent experiences. I can honestly say that preparing this lesson has been a capstone to those experiences, allowing me to sort through them internally in order to better understand many of my weaknesses, and how to turn them into my greatest strengths.

Some would find this to be really surprising coming from me, but I never realized that hope was so fundamental to everything about the Gospel. I mean, I understood long-suffering and its place within the promise of enduring to the end in faith, but I never understood that hope was the same thing as an abiding trust in God to help us do that. Once I learned that, it was like all these gaps in my understanding came to my attention and I understood exactly what was missing from my life. Talk about a revelation--this is something I desperately needed to hear.

I only got my assignment on Sunday and I don't have to give my lesson for another two weekends, but I was excited to get started--and I'm learning so much that I needed to know. I'm hoping I'm not the only one that will end up benefiting from this lesson, but I have another two weeks to work it out so I should be fine.

In other news, our branch's temple trip is this weekend, and I'm naturally very excited about it. It's the first time I will have been in the temple since my father died, and I'm very curious about what that will be like. I'm also eager to leave a lot of my burdens with the Lord and to commune with Him in His temple. Being in D.C. again after so long will also be a beautiful experience, and I'm looking forward to taking my first evening shots. Fellowship with my new friends is also a great plus as well. All around, it's going to be a great night!

And in other other news, my prayers have been answered thus far about getting up to the Hill Cumorah Pageant. It occurred to me about a week ago that I REALLY would like to go and since I'm in the east and it's a righteous desire, there should be nothing stopping me. I tried to pitch the idea to my mother and she pointed out many flaws--the price of travel, the distance, the price of lodging, etc. So I did what any faithful Latter-day Saint freshly out of her teens would do.

I made a Facebook status about it. Then I prayed.

And wouldn't you know it--a girl from my single's ward REALLY came through for me by putting me through to a Young Single Adult's conference in Pennsylvania that will be staying up there VERY cheaply. Now the only hindrance is transportation, which I'm still trying to work out. If all goes according to plan, what would have required a 6 hour drive can be cut in half, taking this whole outing from extremely unlikely to highly doable. I'll definitely keep praying about it and see how far we can take this. It's another one of those instances where you pray, expecting not to get an answer, and the Lord surprises you once again with how much He's willing to come through for you if you're asking for something that's worth having and you're willing to put in your share of the work. And--you guessed it--that makes me VERY excited.

Very excited, indeed. :)


As I sit here in the dark on a snowy Sunday afternoon at the closing of second semester, wearing my cream colored Easter dress with large roses on the hem, I'm grateful for the opportunity to reflect back happily over the memories and lessons I've gathered this year; my roses from a much deeper, warmer Spring.

It hasn't been easy to gather them, what with thorns and briers making a general mess of everything--my own imperfections, the differences I find in those around me, circumstances, places, timing, travel, the past, and expectations--all of them have managed to leave scratches on me in one way or another. Trying to get around them sometimes only gets you beyond lost, and many times the only way to get a beautiful bouquet of roses is to barge resolutely through the brambles, grab your prize with bleeding hands and cut it loose, no matter how much it hurts.

Essentially, I'm in a place now where I'm arranging what I've collected, trying to create an image of beauty and truth despite the fact that my hands are tired and scratched. I've worked hard, and yet it still felt like there was something missing--something essential for my bouquet to be complete. The most beautiful rose of them all, the fairest and rarest of anything that has come into my possession so far.

The white rose of hope.
Yes, that is a genuine signature from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--a prophet, seer, and revelator on the earth today in the leadership of Christ's restored church. An apostle. It's the signature of someone I've never met, but respect very deeply because of what his wisdom has brought into my life.
Elder Holland teaches in a way that is easy for me to understand, through symbols and rhetoric, with a playful seriousness about life that seems so appropriate coming from someone who was also once an English major. His words resonate with me because I have a sense for what they mean to him, and I can see how carefully he assembles them to his purpose. I feel the truth in what he speaks, his words are such strong vessels for the powerful spirit they contain. I've listened to many of his talks that I'm sure have been long forgotten, and they've helped me to see my mission in life despite the darkness that has surrounded me so many times before.

Anyone who knows me is familiar with my love for Elder Holland, and has laughed at my self-appointed status as an "Elder Holland groupie." Some that have met him have even tried to correct me in my fondness for any of the General Authorities over any of the others, saying they all are just ordinary men, and that I should be equally willing to listen to all of them. I've often wondered about that, which makes the following experience so special to me.

A dear friend of mine recently went to St. George to see a new statue of one of her ancestors. She was telling me about it and mentioned that Elder Holland would be there, and my eyes instantly lit up as I told her how lucky she was to see him. She offered to take a copy of one of his books that I own to maybe have him sign it, and I was grateful that she would think of me. It seemed so unlikely though, and I couldn't imagine something like that ever working out for me. I remember thinking that she was very sweet, that I appreciated her, but promptly put all thought that it would ever happen from my mind.

I saw her again just as she was leaving for the weekend, and she came to my room to pick up the book. I remember smiling and thinking, Wow, I can't believe she remembered. I'm sure it'll be crazy busy there, she might not get anywhere near him. Plus, he's a busy man. I shouldn't expect the servants of the Lord to waste their time on something so trivial for me.

I told myself to put any more thoughts about the matter far from me. I told myself NOT to get my hopes up... and yet I think on some level, they were already raised. I thought about what such a gesture would mean to me, after all these years of clinging to words and wisdom from someone I trust so entirely, even though I don't even know him--quite a feat for me. I thought about how special it would be to me, in light of what I'm about to go through this summer, with returning to the east and all the work that awaits me there. I told myself that while Heavenly Father loves me, I shouldn't base my evidence of that love on a "sign" of having the signature of my favorite General Authority in a book.

But wouldn't that be something... I said to myself with a smile, and promptly forgot the whole thing.

It wasn't until I saw my friend on Sunday that I even remembered the situation again. I saw her in her doorway and greeted her excitedly, glad to see her home safely, and also curious to see what stories she'd have to tell of her experience. As soon as she saw me, her eyes lit up and she got very excited.

"I have something for you."

I screamed with excitement and took off down the hall, heels and all. I tore into her room, and she pulled out a book I recognized. Peeling back the cover dramatically, she revealed a page with handwriting I recognized from The Family: A Proclamation to the World. No, I'm not kidding--THAT is how weird I am.

I can't believe it! There it IS! It's really real! It's really, really REAL!

After much rejoicing, girlish squeals of delight paired with jumping and hugging and lots of thanking from the bottom of my bouncing heart, I took my gift and went back to my room to stare at it for a while. I put it on my desk, opened it again, looked at it closely, re-read the words a few times, and started to cry.

Only then did his words come to my heart, those words that have explained life to me so many times when I had no one else.

...they are a time to be believing... 

The latter days are not always easy, even when you're picking roses--whether literal or metaphorical. But that doesn't mean I can't have hope. If I let myself become too afraid to hope for things not seen, even for something small that probably only took 4 seconds of someone's time, how am I supposed to hope for an eternity of Christ's time, for the sacrifice He made that involved so much more than ink and paper?

You CAN have hope. I look at my new favorite possession, and I can feel my Heavenly Father saying this to me. He wants me to know that He does hear me, He knows exactly how much of a dork I am, and He loves me and my dorkiness more than I can possibly imagine--enough to bring to pass my own little miracle, just for me, because He knew how much I would always treasure it. A gift from a Father to a daughter that still, in many ways, cannot understand that kind of love. A gift to show me that I must remember to believe, to have hope in all of the beautiful experiences ahead of me, no matter how frightening my trials and thorns may look from here.

I've been thinking about this summer a lot, dreading what it'll be like to go back east after having been in Utah for so long among spiritual giants and some of the kindest people I've ever met. It's a dread that is new to me because I've never been anywhere safe enough for a long enough time to want to stay there. Now that I have, it frightens me to go back to what I remember, but just like Elder Holland says, these are the days when I need to be believing.

So with my bouquet in hand, crowned with a beautiful white rose of hope, that's exactly what I intend to do.

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