Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I love my life!

So, I love it when things happen that you never expect!!!! That's pretty much all I have to say about that...
In other news, I'm taking the GRE tomorrow. That actually makes me really not love my life, but oh well. I'm pretty terrified cause I procrastinated like crazy with it. Not just for fun stuff, the reason I didn't study more was because I was studying for school, but still. I hope that I do well. Wish me luck!
I can't stinkin' wait for Thanksgiving!!! It'll be our first holiday at the cabin! I love my family - pretty sure I have the best one ever.
I got to talk to my Mission President this week to ask him for a letter of recommendation for grad school. I was so blessed to serve with him. It totally made me day talking to him.
And, now, since I'm supposed to be studying....that's it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Swing of Things...

Eww. School started this week. Funny that I say eww cause my whole mission I really missed going to school. But after two whole years of not using my brain, except to figure out what the junk Elder Talmage was saying in Jesus the Christ, I feel like a moron!! I'm sure I'll do fine, but goodness! I don't know a darn thing! So far my classes seem relatively easy - still have two more to go to, so I hope I haven't jinxed myself. I am kinda bummed cause I have a research paper in my Pearl of Great Price class - you just write about whatever you want that is related to the PofGP and you're good. I had thought of something that really interested me a lot...then I realized that the idea I was basing it off of is not actually in the scriptures, but rather, in the Temple. Therefore, I cannot use it. Shucks. But now I'm thinking of maybe doing a comparison paper on the different creation stories in different cultures and religions. I don't know - I still have a little while to decide. So far my other classes just have a TON of reading - which I can handle as long as I prioritize my time...not exactly my strong suit at the moment.

In other news, I got a job! I had been training the past two months to work in the Coding Lab for Flourishing Families, as I mentioned in my last, really, really old post. Well, it turned out that they didn't have enough funding to hire anyone else. So I was stuck finding something else. Well, I had an interview this morning for a position as a secretary in the Dean's Office for the School of Education. I thought it went pretty well - I hadn't really had a job interview in...close to four years, so I didn't really know. They told me that they would be calling tomorrow to let me know what they had decided. Well, around 1:30, while I was taking a much needed nap, my phone rang. I almost didn't hear it. It was them! They decided - already! - to hire me! So, now I have to wake up every week day at 6:30 (something I vowed to never do again after the mission) and be at work at 8. And I need to get new clothes cause it's in the Dean's Office and apparently that means I have to look nice. Which, hey - new clothes! I can't complain there! So, I am VERY grateful this worked out. I was incredibly worried for a while...you know, a whole 10 days since I found out the Lab might not work out. I don't know what else I would have done. I prayed HARD, and so did my family. And lookey there - the Lord helped me out! Things always work out...they may not be what we want or what we expected, but we can be sure that the Lord will make all things work together for our good. I am sure of that. I don't know why it couldn't work out with the Lab (from Heaven's perspective), but really? When do I ever understand why Heavenly Father does what He does with my life? I have complete trust in Father and in His love for me and His power to make things work out, as long as I am doing my best to follow Him. I'm excited to see why this is what He made happen...hopefully it's something I'll notice and enjoy! But if not, I still trust.

So here I am at the start of a new semester trying to get back into the swing of things. School, work, single's ward...I'm a little overwhelmed, but that's to be expected. It's kinda hard cause basically everyone I knew is gone from BYU so I have to make all new friends. And I'm not necessarily at the stage in my life where I want to make too many new friends. Ideally, I'll only be for a year, then I'll be off to some fun new place for Grad School. And I just want all my old friends to come back. Or come home, cause lots of them are still on the mission. But I guess I just need to suck it up and be friendly or whatever. :D Luckily, my roommates are really nice and one of them, Kayla, and I are becoming good friends. So, here's to the start of so many new things...hope they all turn out well!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

This week....and 20 months ago...

Just a few updates from the week before I start into the mission story.

I practiced coding my first video all by myself. It was pretty thrilling. It took me FOREVER cause I was trying to do the very best I could. The next day I consensused it with my "coding mentor" and it turns out that I did pretty darn well! See, for most tasks there's one person who is the main coder, then another person codes it as well to make sure there is "inter-rater reliability" (if you don't know what that is...look it up, I don't want to explain it). Then they compare the two and for each one that is different, you talk about it till you decide on the same number. They have a way of making a percentage of how similar they were. They shoot for anywhere 85% and above for the actual, paid, trained coders. Well, my first try - I got an 87%! I was pretty excited. Granted, that was one time. I coded again Thursday but don't have my consensus until tomorrow, so I could just be jinxing myself by getting excited, but oh well. It's really important for me to do good on everything so that I can actually get hired since that is still up in the air. But, I love coding - I'm learning so much and its such useful information for life.

I FINALLY got to see my good friends Rachel and Ned Wednesday. We added in there Kristen and it was amazing! We have a tradition of going out to eat when we get together...usually somewhere we can get some form of curry. I was with them the first time I ever had curry and now I just love the stuff! Rachel and Kristen are my oldest friends- some of my earliest memories have them in them, so I'm glad I'm still able to be such good friends with them both. Rachel married Ned, and now the three of us get together as much as possible (they couldn't wait for me to get home so we could spend time together again - even Ned would ask when I was getting home cause he wanted to hang out...I have such good friends!). Well, while I was gone, they had a baby - one of the cutest little boys EVER and I finally got to meet him. It was a great night and I can't wait to spend more time with them.

The Provo Temple has been closed since I got here, so I finally just went to the Mt Timpanogas Temple cause I couldn't wait anymore! I'd never been to that one so it was exciting. I love going to different Temples. My favorite part in this one is the Chapel where you wait to do a session. Before I even got there, I could see the light streaming out the doors. There's a HUGE window at the front of the chapel, facing west. I went at about 5, so the sun was shining directly in. It was breathtaking! I don't think I've ever been in a room that was lit up so much and so beautifully from natural light. Normally, I'm not really a sun-kind of person - I love clouds. But I was so glad it was sunny that day! I couldn't help but feel my Father in Heaven and my Savior's love for me as I sat there. I've been going through a hard time and went to the Temple for comfort and guidance, and I definitely got both. But I didn't expect the comfort and love to come through that room. Obviously, the Temple is a sacred place and each room inside is sacred, but that Chapel is now especially sacred to me and I hope I never forget that sight and feeling.

On a more worldly note, I saw Inception yesterday. All I can say is, WHAT THE JUNK?! (phrase courtesy of a friend, Elder Wily) If you haven't seen this movie, I HIGHLY suggest that you do. It's mindboggling. I can't wait to see it again. I went with my brother (aww...he took me on a date - it was so cute!) and he is planning on seeing it again Tuesday in an IMAX theater. That's how good it is. I don't even know how anyone could possibly come up with that! Plus, there's some good-looking guys in it - Leo and that kid from 3rd rock from the sun - he grew up quite nicely... and for guys, or at least some guys (my brother included), there's Ellen Page. It's just great. I really just don't have words for it...I'm still trying to process it.

Ok...now for the mission.

I just wanted to put this up to show me at the famous map...pointing to Jacksonville! My home away from home. If ever I had doubts before or at the beginning of my mission of whether or not my call was inspired, those doubts are GONE. The Lord, and no person, sent me to Jacksonville, sent me to each area, each companion, President Newman, and a handful of people I needed to find. I can't even imagine my life if I had gone somewhere else. Never doubt a mission call. It is true inspiration each and every time. Here's me and my AMAZING MTC companion, Sister Heeder. Oh man...if we had ever had the chance to serve together in the field, we would have, in the words of the FJM, DOMINATED. We worked so well together, we were super focused, we got along fantastically. Like I said - inspired. I couldn't have handled having anyone else as my first companion, and the Lord knew that. I needed her. I like to think she needed me as well, but I'm not sure about that one, cause she's such an amazing missionary. We were both pretty convinced that we were the best companionship to ever grace the halls and rooms of the MTC. I had such a great MTC experience. Our district was fantastic. Our teachers knew so much and had the Spirit so strongly with them (and one even served in Angleton - a ward that shares my home chapel!). There is nothing like the MTC. It was so hard to leave. Luckily, I had something even better waiting for me!

My trainer was Sister Nielsen. (she was in a wedding dress in last weeks post...) Again, inspired. I could not have been trained any better or by anyone else. She was great. We almost had a baptism my second day in the field. A man named Israel had been taught for a while and was ready to be baptized, but just didn't want to give up his Catholic roots. We had the Assistants come teach him in Spanish since that's his first language and I have never felt the Spirit so strong while only understanding about 15 words (Jose Smith, El Libro de Mormon, bautismo, verdad, etc...). Well, afterward they told us that he basically said, "I know it's all true, I know God knows I know it's true, but I'm staying Catholic." Not the smartest thing to do in my opinion. Sis Nielsen had been working with him for a while, so it was a big heartbreak for her. But the Lord made it up to her. We had no one coming to Church that Sunday and we were both quite bummed about that. But, then we got there and someone said that Sis Kenny had her goddaughter there and she wasn't a member. So, we went and introduced ourselves to her. Her name is Nicole Greene. She absolutely loved church that day and agreed that we could come teach her more about the Gospel. We had the first lesson with her, it went really well, and set up another time. Our second lesson was Thursday. We had connected a lot already up to this point and she had shared some very personal stuff with us. She trusted us and we knew she was sincere in her desire to come closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. So, as we taught the Plan of Salvation, we both felt she needed to be baptized, and Sis Nielsen invited her. She agreed!! She even had this amazing dream a few days before her baptism that more than confirmed the truth of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to her. So, 13 days after we met her, Nicole Greene was baptized. It was amazing. We got to see her change, see the Atonement take effect in her life right before our eyes and I'll never forget it. I love her so much. Unfortunately, she had to work lots on Sundays, then moved without really telling anyone, so I have lost contact with her. But, I know her testimony is there and even if she isn't coming to church now, she will. She'll get there. And I will see her again someday, even if it's not in this life.
On a side note... Sis Nielsen will KILL me if she reads this... but its so great, I can't not share. Nicole accidentally forgot to bring an extra bra to change into after the baptism. Crisis! We weren't sure what to do at all...she lived 30 minutes from the chapel. So, Sis Nielsen, being the amazing senior companion and missionary that she was, let Nicole borrow her bra for the baptism! That is true charity right there. I don't know any other situation anyone would do that in. But when someone's getting baptized, you do anything and everything you have to to make it a great experience for them, even if it means you have to go bra-less for the night...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Since I've Been Home

Well, I've been putting off and putting off this whole "blog" thing... mainly because I felt like I had so much to update that I'd never be able to and it was just way too overwhelming. So I was looking at a friend's blog today and it made me want to actually use my blog... here goes nothing... In order to decrease the overwhelmingness, I decided that I would put up a post each Sunday about some great thing from my mission, or since I've been home if I feel so inclined. We'll see how that goes, but it seems much more manageable.

Since I hate catch-ups, I'll just put pictures of what's been going on in my life since I've been home with short explanations and then if I ever decide to elaborate more, I'll do it later. There I go...procrastinating from the get-go.

Yesterday, I went to my missionary trainer's wedding reception. Sister Nielsen is now Rachel Holland. It's crazy - especially since she's only been home three months more than me. They were set up on a blind date...apparently they work sometimes! I'm so happy for her - she was the best trainer I could have asked for and was such an amazing missionary and she deserves all the happiness in the world. I'm just so glad to know her! I also got to see a few mission friends for the first time - it was fabulous!
Me, Whitney Soper, Rachel Nielsen Holland, Travis Holland, Chase Terry
Add in Shalane Titmus. Not gonna lie, it was strange actually being able to put my arm around Elder Terry...

Last week I left the great state of Texas to come back to Utah to be trained in my dream job, then finish up school in the fall. For the first time in at least 8 years, we had my whole family on vacation together! It was great. Plus we got to add in cousin Katrina who is probably the funniest person I've been around since I left Florida. We went to Yellowstone to get a picture in our traditional spot...on the side of a mountain. It was great, but according to Sarah and Becca NEVER happening again...
Me, Andie, Becca, Sarah, Katrina, Michael and Tobbie

July 3, 2010 - one of my top ten days EVER (maybe...), I went to see WICKED! It was life changing, I laughed, I cried, I didn't want it to end. It was absolutely amazing and I can now die happy and fulfilled. I'm pretty sure I could watch Wicked everyday and never get sick of it. There just aren't words to describe my love....

Oh yeah...

Me all gussied up for the theater...somehow my hair curls now...don't ask me how...

So, Twilight came out just a few weeks after I left on my mission. It was the saddest thing! Becca, Sarah and I LOVE the books and we were all quite sad I wasn't there for the midnight showing of it...or New Moon for that matter. Tragic. Despite the fact that it was a terrible movie and I knew it would be, Twilight was the first movie I watched when I got home. Needless to say, there was no way I would miss the midnight showing of Eclipse. It was super sad that Sarah couldn't come cause her job is ridiculous and she was working til 2 that morning. But, I got to go with Becca and we had a great time! I'm pretty sure the highlight of the whole ordeal was getting to see the trailer for the next Narnia movie! Can't wait til December!

I seem to have gotten old... I turned 23. I don't know how I feel about that...but then I remember that Sarah and Becca are both older than me and I feel a bit better! We celebrated all three of our birthdays together as usual (our birthdays are within 12 days of each other...). We had a great time! Minus the whole getting old part...
Becca, me and Sarah at Carino's
Monkey face!!

We had a tragic death in the family... our Pecan tree that has been there for over a hundred years got cut down. It was 90% dead from some stupid nasty bug and with hurricane season here, we didn't want to risk it falling on our house. So, we said goodbye to the one source of shade in our front yard.

One of my best friends got married! Brooke Kerby became Brooke Fowers. I got to go to San Diego to be there with her. I was so excited to see the beautiful San Diego Temple, but I was surprised to see it completely covered in scaffolding! So, Cinderella's Temple didn't look quite as beautiful as I'd hoped, but the bride more than made up for it! Brooke was BEAUTIFUL and I was SO glad to get to share that day with her. I got to get to know her family also, and the were awesome. Such a great vacation!

Sarah gave me the best gift EVER for my homecoming...a CRUISE! We left from Jacksonville after our mission tour, and went to Key West and the Bahamas. It was definitely a learning experience (I will NEVER go Carnival again. And who knew? everything in the Bahamas closes at 6) but we had such an amazing time! I am blessed to have the two best sisters EVER and the only thing that would have made that trip better was if Becca could have come. Too bad she gets motion sick.
Sarah and I dressed up for formal night

Snorkeling...in the Bahamas! Coolest thing EVER! once I retrained myself to breathe under water...that was a weird experience for sure!

Sarah and I on the cruise boat!

As before mentioned, I visited Jacksonville a month after getting home. Mom and Sarah came with me. It was fabulous and made me even more mission-sick than I already was. I had such a good time seeing my converts, all my friends in the wards I served in and some of the missionaries I served with. I miss my mission WAY more than I thought was possible. It was the best, hardest, most amazing, most tiring, most rewarding thing I've ever done. Why do sisters only get 18 months?
Mom, President and Sister Newman and I. Be listening for Russell Newman being called as a General Authority in General Conference in the near future...he is amazing and the best thing that ever happened to Jacksonville and quite possibly my favorite person in the world.

Oh how I miss my name tag... Here's me with some of the missionaries I served with. Elder Birch from the MTC, Elder Williams from Mandarin and my Zone Leader in Orange Park, Elder Clark - one of my District Leaders in Lake Butler, Sister Safley from the MTC and my last companion, Elder Wilkey and Elder Ferrin - both in my Orange Park district and with me at the end.


So there you have it...all the major happenings since I've been home. It's been weird. A huge part of me just wants to go back to Jacksonville and be a missionary. But it has been great being home. I'm looking forward to the next stages of my life. Who knows what the next few months and years will bring, but I'm ready for whatever comes!