Monday, July 15, 2013

Good Gifts

Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift. 

For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil. 

Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. 

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.   
(Moroni 7:10-13The Book of Mormon)

At a point in my life recently I went through a spiritual identity crisis. Am I really a child of God? Is God even there? If God loves me, why can't I feel His love? Am I really a good person, or have I been wasting all of my whole life being good when I could be making other choices that would maybe be more fun? Deep down, without the LDS faith that I was raised in, have my actions been showing the person who I really am? Am I ultimately good or bad? If I'm not sure about God, should I keep living my life the way I have been, or can I loosen up a little and try new things? Will I be happier if I live differently? If I keep living according to the standards I was raised with, will I be lying to myself and others for my whole life and die a hypocrite? Am I wasting my time trying to be good when deep down maybe I'm actually a bad person?

I worried myself sick over these questions. Am I good? Am I bad?

During my confusion, I went on campus one night to hear a special speaker, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's son David Holland. I don't remember anything about David's speech. But afterward I shook hands with David's father, Elder Holland, an Apostle of the Lord. I expected to just shake his hand and get pushed on through the line. But when our hands met, Elder Holland looked into my eyes and said, "How are you?" I was so surprised by his question, that he'd actually spoken to me, that I just exclaimed quickly, "Good!" He stared straight into my soul, it seemed, with his smoky blue eyes, and replied, "You are good!"

I walked away from Elder Holland in a stunned state. I am good! An Apostle of the Lord told me that I am good. I'm a good person. Elder Holland knows that I am.

I've realized in my life that every time I start to relax my standards, every time I stop doing things I should do or start doing things that I shouldn't do, I'm not as happy, and I feel uncomfortable, and I want to be back where I feel good.

Whether God is there or not and whether He loves me or not, the way I've chosen to live my life brings me satisfaction and it brings happiness to those around me. So how do I know that I'm a good person? The answer is in the verses of scripture I quoted above: if I do good things I'm a good person. If I do evil things I'm an evil person. If I'm serving Christ I can't serve the devil, and if I serve the devil I can't serve Christ.

As a human I have agency. I choose to be good or evil. By choosing good things I choose to be good. Sometimes I slip up and sometimes I doubt, but my life has not been predetermined. I don't need to worry about if deep down, beneath everything that I do, I might actually be an evil person, because if I'm choosing good and doing good then I'm a good person! And that's just how it works, folks.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Big Sister

I'm not the oldest child, but I am the big sister. I remember when I was younger being asked, "Don't you ever wish you had an older sister?" The answer is no. I'd never really even think about it until someone would ask that. Maybe some things in life would've been easier, but even now as I try to think about how things could've been different, I can't imagine a world where I wasn't the oldest girl. I like my place in the family. I just am the older sister. Also, I like having four big brothers.

Being a big sister is great. My younger siblings think I'm so much more awesome than I really am. They see me as beautiful, righteous, smart, talented...they think I have a million friends and that every guy is in love with me. On multiple occasions, different younger sisters have surprised me by saying something to the effect of, "Jillian, I'm swimming in men! There are so many cute guys that like me and I don't know what to do! I'm turning into you!"

I hope my sisters can see that they're not turning into me. I hope they don't feel like they need to turn into me. Each one of them is so beautiful, so individual, so herself. Gretchen being bombarded by guys does not mean that she's finally attained "Jillian status." Gretchen is so much more outgoing, and completely gorgeous, than I was at her age. She's not even 17 yet and she's already gone on more dates in 10 months than I did in probably my first couple years of dating. She has self confidence and poise that I envy.

Little sisters, you're not turning into me. You're turning into YOU!

Growing up I was able to do a lot of fun/great things that I'm glad my younger siblings are able to look to and admire. One of my favorite talents is my musical ability--piano, oboe, singing, and other random things. Music has led me to a lot of fun experiences. I also did school sports. I stayed involved in as many high school clubs as was humanly possible. I made a lot of wonderful friends from other schools. I graduated top of my class (out of 24 whole people! Woop!) and made it into BYU. I worked hard to accomplish all these things, and I'm glad I could show my younger siblings that it was possible for me, and it's possible for them to do anything they want to.

It's flattering that my younger sisters (and brother) look up to me. It's also humbling, because I know who I really am behind my impressive-looking résumé. I feel pain. I've had awful trials. I have doubts and fears and questions. Right now I'm struggling to stay motivated and caught up in school for just one more month so I can graduate from BYU and finally have a chance to slow down for a little bit, even if just for a couple weeks or a month, to realign my priorities for how I want to live the rest of my life.

I hope my younger siblings don't ever turn into me. I hope they can see themselves, their beautiful selves, and realize that life is not a competition, or one meet-able goal, or some specific picture-perfect life that they must attain to. If they don't get asked out on dates, they're not failures. If they don't get into the college they want to go to, they're not failures. I hope they can have different and new experiences from the ones I've had, and that they can avoid mistakes that I have made. I hope they can see me as human. (Which, I'm sure they do, 'cause they've seen how bratty and selfish I can be.)

I'm blessed to be the big sister. If I ever feel like giving up or giving in, I remember what my younger siblings see in me. Maybe they know who I am better than I do myself. I am flattered, humbled, motivated, and blessed by the wonderful individuals I get to share eternity with.

P.S. This post was mainly about my sisters, but I just have to add that I also super love the best little brother in the world! Mason amazes me all the time. I love when he randomly chats with me on gmail (he's not old enough for facebook yet) or when I call home and he wants to talk to me even when he's in the middle of reading an awesome book! I like learning interesting facts from him and hearing about things he's doing in school.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Printers and Prayer

A couple years ago my dad bought me a much-needed printer for my birthday. Or maybe Santa Claus got it for me for Christmas. Either way, I obtained a printer, and it immediately was put to good use. Do you know how convenient it is to have a printer at your apartment, rather than having to walk to campus to print something off? Yeah, you probably do know that.

So, things with my printer were all fine and dandy for a while. Until the beginning of last school year. Sometimes it would print, and sometimes it wouldn't. I couldn't figure out what was wrong, but finally decided maybe it just needed a fresh start with new ink cartridges. Which, I had replaced them multiple times previously, but ink cartridges are expensive and I'm a poor college student so I decided to wait until Christmas to see if Santa Claus would work his wonders. And he did. Two ink cartridges in my stocking! How wonderful.

We replaced the ink cartridges. But life was still a little rough. Just like before, sometimes my printer would work, and sometimes it wouldn't. It was plugged in, the lights were on, it showed up on my computer, I'd make sure the printer cord was properly inserted into my USB port, and still, the print job would just stay on my computer for hours and never send to the printer. But then other times it would print just fine. 

Gradually over the rest of the school year the "just fine" times became less and less frequent. Until the beginning of the summer it just wouldn't ever work at all. Every time I needed to print something I'd try my printer first, but then have to use my roommate Sara's printer, wasting her precious ink and paper resources. I don't think a single thing printed off my printer all summer long. Then a couple weeks ago my friend Danny and I needed to print tickets for the BYU/Utah State football game. And Sara's printer wasn't working! Weird. So I tried my printer, and it actually worked! For the first time in months! Although, it printed off very lightly, so I think it may be time to replace the ink cartridges again. So it worked, but then the next time I needed to print something it wouldn't work again, and I figured it had just been a fluke. A stroke of luck.
.   .   .

This semester has been hellish. The semester from the underworld. And this has nothing to do with my printer not working. It has been extremely difficult and busy school-wise (worst combination of classes ever), and a time of personal struggle and growth and questioning and doubting and learning. And even though I know deep down that God is there (or even higher up than deep down), I think sometimes I forget that He actually wants to help me. Which is silly, because I'm one of the most blessed and loved-by-God people I know. I'm usually quite blessing-spoiled. Anyway, I'd just gotten in this rut of not expecting much to happen when I needed something. But God has His own timetable for showing His children that He is actually listening.

On Thursday I had a paper due for my Teachings of the Living Prophets class (and this is why my whole big long narrative on my printer was necessary), and because of my hectic and demanding schedule I didn't have time to write it until Thursday morning. Class is at 10:00, and I couldn't be late for class, but I was still running around my apartment getting ready at 9:45, just having finished writing my paper. I had no clue how I was going to get to campus with enough time to print my paper, and even though I knew it wouldn't work, I decided to spare a few precious seconds just to see if maybe my own printer would somehow come through for me. So I made sure it was on and hooked my laptop up to it, and as I hit "print" on the document I barely realized I was praying urgently out loud, almost by instinct: "Please work, please! Please Heavenly Father make it print." And I would have just gotten a tiny bit more frustrated and completely forgotten my simple, useless prayer two seconds later, except that immediately I heard my printer make an "I'm getting ready" noise. I held my breath until a piece of paper was engaged and my document began to print. And then I remembered the prayer I had uttered just moments before. And that God was listening to me. And He knew it was important that I print this off and get to class. And that He loves me. And then I ran all the way to campus and got to class just on time, out of breath but happy and humble.

I actually have had a lot of God-loves-me moments the past couple of weeks. And at critical times. And mostly just through simple acts of others: home teachers bringing me a treat, a friend buying me dinner, family loving and caring about me, a parking attendant in Salt Lake noticing my tears of distress and letting me use his parking lot even though I was supposed to park somewhere else, General Conference talks saying just what I needed to hear...And it reminds me of something I heard Brother Mike Chesley say a while ago in my Singles Ward back home about blessings and miracles: "Coincidence? You can say that after every miracle." God knows where I am all the time. He knows my needs.

God doesn't dabble in coincidences. He doesn't bank on things occurring by chance. His hand is in all. He works by the laws of nature and science and the agency of His children to bring about His work. To bestow blessings on His daughter Jillian when she needs them. To give you blessings. To tell you that He exists when you need to hear it.

Printers. Parking attendants. Prophets' inspired words. "Coincidence? You can say that after every miracle."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

friends, chastening, and good tips from someone who's not me

It's a good thing there are people in this world who are nicer than I am. Otherwise we'd all just sit around on our couches all day, doing our own homework by ourselves, and worrying about how much we have to do tomorrow, and we'd probably never even know another human being.

My friend Emma brought me a present earlier this evening. An ice cream scoop! And not because she expected anything in return, not because someone told her I needed one...Just because...she's nice. She saw the other day that I broke a spoon trying to scoop ice cream, and decided to help! I need to be more like her.

Another friend, Trevor, came over to keep me company tonight while we both did homework. It really helps make studying easier (and by easier, I mean less boring and less likely that you'll kill yourself or go insane) when there's another human being around. Trevor's really good at being happy and can make even political science seem enjoyable. It's good to be fun.

I went to the BYU campus devotional this morning, and it was brilliant. Jeff Wilks gave a beautiful speech/talk/thingy. Do you find it hard sometimes to be positive in a negative world? Well, remember these things:
  1. Righteousness does not mean perfection
  2. If life is hard...keep trying anyway
  3. Keep your focus on Heavenly Father
  4. Heavenly Father's approval matters most
  5. Find and remember the joy in your life
Between that (Jeff Wilks' devotional speech) and looking at the examples of the wonderful people in my life, I learned a lot today and was a little bit called to repentance. I can be negative sometimes. Like when I do poorly on my music history midterms. Or when I have to stay up all night studying for a test or finishing a project. And then people do nice things for me, like cook me dinner or give a genuine compliment or wash my dirty dishes...and I realize that I can be happy while doing hard things! I mean, if I have to take a political science midterm tomorrow anyway, I may as well enjoy it, and maybe learn something in the process. Right? And better yet, I should probably take time off from studying to help someone else. Or maybe wait 'til I ace my test then go find someone to serve. 

I think I'm just finally realizing that my life might always be crazy. So I need to love other people and enjoy others' company in the midst of the craziness, instead of waiting for it all to be over.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

I gave a talk in church yesterday, my first talk I've ever had to give in a BYU ward, and I've been at BYU a whole three years! I was hoping to make it clear 'til graduation without having to speak in church, but no such luck.

This talk was a little bit hard for me to write. The topic I was given to speak on was "Faith." Normally when I have to give a talk I think about it for a couple weeks before I have to write it and by the time I sit down to put it all together, I have a million ideas and it's already basically written in my head. I've been struggling with having faith lately, though, and questioning, and it seems like these past few weeks the harder I'd try to pray for increased faith or to calm doubts, the more doubtful I'd become, and I wasn't sure I'd even be able to write a talk on faith, let alone give it to a congregation in Sacrament Meeting if I didn't really believe it myself.

It turns out that things came together, though, at the end. The talk I wrote was more of an exploration of faith for myself, and getting myself back on the right track. So this talk came at the perfect time in my life, I suppose, forcing me to study things out a little bit. Hopefully it was just as helpful to some of the people in the congregation as it was to me.

Anyway, my mom wanted to be there for my talk but wasn't able to, so I thought I'd just post it right here. Go ahead and read it if you want! Here she blows:

       Jesus’ disciples cried unto Him as they were in a ship, in the midst of a great storm. “Master! Carest thou not that we perish?” Christ arose and rebuked the wind and said unto the sea, “Peace, be still.” Then he turned to His disciples and asked, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”
       We know of another story when Christ’s disciples were in a ship, tossed about by wind and waves. They looked out and saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. In faith Peter was able to step off the ship and onto the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind and the waves he lost faith in his ability to make it to Christ. He began to sink and cried, “Lord, save me!” And as soon as he’d cried out, Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught Peter. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”
       What do we know about faith? In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we’re taught about faith constantly. And every time we’re taught a lesson on the topic, whether in Relief Society, Sunday School, or, I suppose Priesthood meetings, although I’ve never been to one of those, it always seems to go the same, something like this: The teacher gets up and says, “Today our lesson is about faith.  We all know the scripture in Alma 32 about how faith is believing in things that we can’t see, but what is faith really? What does faith mean to you?” And then a few people in the class raise their hands and give answers that are all pretty much the same, about hope and trust, and then the teacher of the class will say, “Well, those are all good answers, but here’s a definition of faith I found in the Webster Dictionary…” and then the lesson will go on the same way it always does, reading all the same scriptures about faith. And they really are good scriptures! But faith is hard for me to understand sometimes, even though I know where to find all the answers in the scriptures. 
       How is it that Jesus Christ’s own disciples, the men He chose to be His apostles, lacked faith when Christ was right there with them? How could Peter sink into the sea when he saw Jesus Christ standing on the water right in front of him? Sometimes I think to myself, “If I were one of His disciples back when Jesus lived on the earth, I’d surely always have faith in Him and I’d never doubt. If I could see Him working miracles, I’d always know of the truthfulness of the gospel and the power it brings.” But this isn’t faith, and as we learn all throughout the scriptures, seeing Christ and witnessing miracles doesn’t produce faith. Believing in Christ and recognizing miracles are results of faith that is already present.
       Faith is the first principle and ordinance of the gospel. But not just any faith! It must be faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This faith in Christ and His Atonement must come before anything else, before we can repent and be forgiven and washed clean, before we can have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. So we can’t just have faith, although it’s good to have faith in things; like, faith that we’ll find the right person to marry, or faith that a family member will start coming back to church after they’ve strayed. But faith in things won’t bring us salvation. It is only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that can redeem us of our hurt and sins, and bring us back to live with our Heavenly Father. This is why faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle and ordinance of the gospel.
       Faith is a special gift to us from a loving Heavenly Father. In a world of science, men are always needing proof. They need evidence to believe that something is true. Although it’s hard to hold and touch and see, we are taught in Hebrews 11:1 that faith has substance. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is our proof, our evidence, of all the things we need to believe that we cannot see. But then from there it seems to take more faith to trust that this faith really is the evidence we’re seeking. 
       I think that part of the journey towards having faith in Christ’s Atonement is having faith in faith. In the Book of Mormon, in Helaman chapter 15, the Nephites are being reminded of the time that the Lamanites buried their weapons of war and feared to sin. Verse 9 tells us that “this [was] because of their faith in Christ.” It’s the next few verses, though, that give me hope. They give me hope that, even when it’s difficult to understand the Atonement, I can have faith in faith, the faith that God will help me understand and that He won’t give up on me.  Verse ten reads:

"And now, because of their steadfastness when they do believe in that thing which they do believe, for because of their firmness, when they are once enlightened, behold, the Lord shall bless them and prolong their days, notwithstanding their iniquity—"

And then we read about the promise to the Lamanites, that because they have believed in Christ, even during their weaker moments when they “dwindle in unbelief,” they will find their way back. Once they are enlightened, the Lord will bless them. And the Lord will bless us the same way! He doesn’t give up on us. He gives us time to learn what faith is and to believe and to grow. The end of verse 12 says, “And notwithstanding the many afflictions which they shall have, and notwithstanding they shall be driven to and fro upon the face of the earth, and be hunted, and shall be smitten and scattered abroad, having no place for refuge, the Lord shall be merciful unto them.”

       In the next chapter of the Book of Mormon, Helaman 16, the people are witnessing signs and wonders that foretell Christ’s birth. Angels appeared unto men and the scriptures began to be fulfilled. Yet men doubted. 

“Nevertheless, the people began to harden their hearts, all save it were the most believing part of them, both of the Nephites and also of the Lamanites, and began to depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom, saying:

"Some things they may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken.
"And they began to reason and to contend among themselves, saying:
"That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come;"

       Sometimes I feel like I’m a Lamanite, having many afflictions and being hunted and smitten by my trials and temptations and weaknesses. And other times I feel like one of those unbelieving Nephites or Lamanites who hardened their hearts to the point where there wasn’t room for faith in Christ, even being surrounded by all these signs and miracles. But even as I am laden with doubts, I can remember times when I have known so completely that Christ is my Redeemer. I remember fasting and praying with my family for a loved one to be healed, and then feeling a healing in my own soul that can only come through Christ. I remember a visit to a bishop’s office where I learned of the power of Christ’s Atonement and left feeling so clean and pure and new that it was as if I’d just been born. I remember moments of pure gratitude at the amazing measure of love my Heavenly Father bestows upon me as He blesses me with things that I surely don’t deserve. And remembering these moments helps me remember that I actually do have faith. Not just faith in faith, or faith that I’ll someday have faith in Christ’s Atonement, but the knowledge that I already have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That I’ve already witnessed miracles in my life and that surely He’s still as real today as He was then. 

       Faith can sometimes be hard and doubt can be easy. The world tries to confuse us, and like the hardened Nephites and Lamanites, tries to reason away God and miracles and the Atonement. In Mosiah 16:8 & 9 Abinadi declares his testimony:

"But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. 

"He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death (emphasis added)."

       The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans (Romans 10:17) “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” In Elder Hales’ talk “Finding Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said,

"The first step to finding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is to let His word—spoken by the mouth of His servants, the prophets—touch your heart. But it is not enough merely to let those words wash over you, as if they alone could transform you. We must do our part. Or as the Savior Himself said, 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.' In other words, hearing requires an active effort. 'Faith without works is dead.' It means taking seriously what is taught, considering it carefully, studying it out in our minds. As the prophet Enos learned, it means letting others’ testimonies of the gospel '[sink] deep into [our] heart[s].'" 

       As we listen to others’ testimonies, and even remember our own past experiences, the Holy Ghost will testify of their truthfulness to us and help our faith to grow. Doctrine and Covenants 46:13-14 teaches us, 

“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

"To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.”

Elder Hales also went on so say:

"When the challenges of mortality come, and they come for all of us, it may seem hard to have faith and hard to believe. At these times only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement can bring us peace, hope, and understanding. Only faith that He suffered for our sakes will give us the strength to endure to the end. When we gain this faith, we experience a mighty change of heart, and like Enos, we become stronger and begin to feel a desire for the welfare of our brothers and sisters. We pray for them, that they too will be lifted and strengthened through faith on the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ."

       This gospel is a gospel of faith. It’s a gospel of acting on our faith in Jesus Christ to change and grow and improve, and to help others have faith in Christ. We will know that our faith is sufficient when we have that peace, hope, and understanding that only the Atonement can bring, and the desire to share it with others.

  I hope we can all always seek for this faith in Christ, to continually strengthen it so that we won’t lose it. When the waters get rough and waves are crashing in, we need to remember that Christ won’t forsake us. He’s in the boat with us! He has the power to calm the sea, and because of His power we can overcome all things. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

It's the people.

I always feel like blogging at inconvenient times. (Which means, I should be in bed right now.) But, I just had the most wonderful night. 

As I came to make this blog post I saw that I had up a half-written post from Saturday night that is, ironically enough, about how much I like being alone. And I still intend to finish that blog post because it's a good one, but...right now I'm grateful for people!

My roommate Sara and I invited over a few girls in our ward, plus our home teacher Josh, for a Girls + Josh night. It made today wonderful. 

Let me back track a little bit. I woke up early this morning to write a book report that I was supposed to have turned in by Saturday night. It took me a couple hours to write, and then I went right on to studying for my Marketing Management midterm, and did that for the next 4 hours until I had to be at class (my last class of the term!). After class I came home and went right to cleaning my room so it will be beautiful when my new roommate moves in tomorrow. 

I cleaned and organized until Sara got home from work at like 4:30, and at this point I was tired and grumpy, partly 'cause I don't like cleaning and studying all day, and also because I just have other things to worry me, like, you know, life and such. And so I wasn't in the best mood. But then Sara gave me some delicious apricot-somethin' juice (it was goood) which immediately started to improve my mood. Sara and I wanted to watch a movie because she had a code for a free Redbox movie that had to be used today, and our "family" didn't have FHE tonight, so we invited Sariah, Esther, Michelle and Josh to join us. And I cleaned some more until about 8:30 when they all started to show up for our partay!

Michelle brought her huge case of nail polish and glitter. Esther and Sariah brought in a box with a few pieces of cold pizza from earlier in the day. Josh brought some cute temporary tattoos. Sara got a free Redbox movie (Man On a good!), and I...well, I didn't bring anything. Although I did move the couches with Esther's help so that they were in a better movie-watching position. So, we pushed play on the movie and set to work! Here's my butterfly tattoo:
Michelle has some serious nail-painting/glittering skills. She did all of our nails during the movie, which made me feel a little bad 'cause she probably didn't get to pay as close of attention to the movie as she would have liked. And I'm so glad Josh could come. I think I'll invite him to every girls' night I ever have again for the rest of my life. He's a fun movie-watching friend, and didn't even care that all of us girls were painting our nails during this semi-intense awesome movie. 

Tonight was just what I needed after a heavy and tiresome day. Life is about friends. Being with people makes me happy. Happy people make me happy! Doing things with and for other people makes me happy. Having a roommate and a visiting teacher and a visiting teachee and a visiting teaching companion and a home teacher (yes, our little circle of teaching doesn't branch very far) all at the same movie night made me happy.

When the movie was over and we were getting ready to disband, Josh saw my leopard slippers in the corner of the room that I put there earlier today in preparation to give away at our ward clothing exchange tomorrow night. He wanted them, and I wanted to get rid of them. We needed a picture of our feet from tonight:
Didn't Michelle do an awesome job making our toenails sparkly? And I'm glad Josh was so excited about those slippers. I was worried I wouldn't be able to find a new home for them.

I just remembered that I left everyone with a parting gift of fruity candy canes. I found them today while I was cleaning my room. I bought a couple boxes of them back in January or February because they were on sale for like 10¢ a box. 
So I guess I contributed something to this wonderful night, after all.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Parable of the Song

I learned about two parables in church today. The first was the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, found in Chapter 20 of St. Matthew. This is a parable that teaches us to be happy for others to come unto Christ, to accept the Atonement for others and to not think it unfair when someone receives the same wages from Christ as we do when, from the outside, they may not seem as "worthy" as us. Essentially, none of us are worthy of the mercy of Christ, and it's a great, unfathomable gift to all of us, no matter how long or how short we've been following Christ. In this parable Christ teaches that the man in charge of the vineyard hired laborers at the beginning of the day and they agreed upon a wage. Throughout the day he hired more workers, and they all agreed to work for him. Nearing the end of the day there were still others who were waiting to be hired, and the man gave them work as well, promising that "whatsoever is right, that shall [they] receive," for their wages. And when the work was done, each laborer received the same wage, a penny for their work (which was a good amount in that time)! Those who had worked all day and those who had just been hired for the last hour or so of work. The ones who had worked all day complained that they were all paid the same, even though they'd agreed to their penny when they took on the work.

This parable is all about the Atonement. Some people take advantage of Christ's great gift for them earlier in their lives, while others take longer to realize the power their Savior has. We shouldn't be jealous of others' wages. We are all unworthy to receive the wages we receive, yet they are offered freely to us anyway. All we must do is humble ourselves and follow Christ and allow His Atonement to change our lives.

I was taught another parable today. One that's not found in the Bible. Today my lovely roommate Sara and I, and a friend of ours named Amberly, performed "Abide With Me, 'Tis Eventide" in church. Sara sang, Amberly played the piano, and I played the oboe. It was beautiful. I get really nervous when I perform for others. Especially when I play the oboe, because if you don't know this, good oboe playing is pretty dependent on how good of an oboe reed you have, and I don't always have the best of luck in that area. Anyway, when I get nervous my throat goes dry, my hands first get sweaty while I'm waiting to perform, and then they start to shake (as do my legs usually) while I'm performing, which is kind of a deadly combination for playing the oboe. Anyway, I got up and was able to keep my nerves in check. However, in the middle of the song my brain stopped working (also one of my nervousness side effects) and I played a D-flat instead of the E-flat I was supposed to play. I was able to get back on and didn't mess up for the rest of the song, but it was still a nasty sound for that split second. And once the D-flat was out, there was no taking it back. Like I said, it didn't really mess me up too badly and I was able to play well for the rest of the song, but after I sat down, of course, my mind kept going back to that one mistake I made, hoping that people hadn't really noticed it or that at least it wasn't too distracting (which, it was nasty enough that I'm sure everyone did notice, except for maybe the people who were sleeping). And as I was thinking about it, hoping that the rest of my playing was enough to redeem that mistake in the eyes (or ears) or my listeners, I had this reassuring message come into my head (the Parable of the Song, if you will):

Our lives are a beautiful song. God hears the whole thing. I've been hung up recently on something in my life, and for each person there's a different "thing" to worry about: it may be a low point in life filled with depression, or guilt for a sin that you just can't get over, feelings of regret, feelings of envy or hatred or "why me?" because something unfair happened. I've been focusing on those couple of sour notes in the song of my life. But is my whole entire song ruined because of that? The music leading up to the mistakes in the song I played today was beautiful; sure, it wasn't perfect and there were a couple shaky parts due to nerves, but it was still beautiful. The music I played after I messed up was beautiful, and I even got the tricky ending that I've had troubles with as I was practicing. Really, it was great. Would the people listening to me judge the whole entire song as awful because I messed up two little notes in the middle of the song? Hopefully not. Hopefully they noticed the beauty in the rest of it and were able to overlook my mistakes. (And plus, Amberly and Sara were wonderful enough to more than doubly make up for me.)

The parable of the laborers found in Matthew is about accepting the Atonement for others and getting over envy. The parable of the song is about accepting the Atonement for myself. God won't judge my whole life as one big awful mistake because of the small or not-so-small mistakes I make throughout my life. If I use the Atonement and accept His gift, those things are taken away. My life is beautiful. It's a beautiful song. It's an oboe obligato with a few missed notes and a few shaky moments, but it's wonderful and I'm learning and growing and getting stronger. It's difficult to not dwell on mistakes or trials and unfair moments. It's hard to know if those things have really been made up for through the Atonement of Christ. Sometimes it's hard to trust. It would be really easy for me to look back at our musical number today and despair and think, "Oh no! I ruined the whole thing! It was going to be so good and I practiced so hard and then I blew it!" But that would be so unfair to myself, and untruthful. Two bad notes doesn't make the whole song bad. Poor choices or unfair circumstances doesn't make a whole life ruined.

This wonderful moment I had during church today, this tender mercy, helped me know that God loves me. He's accepted my song that I have to offer for Him. He knows I've made mistakes and that I'll likely make more, but He also knows where my desires lie. He hears the beautiful parts of my song, and He knows they are good and He lets me know through moments like this that He loves me, oh so much! And He offers me the gift of His Son, even though I may not deserve it. He offers it to me and He offers it to you. Take it! Use it!

We have the Atonement of Christ. And that is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rings and Things

I used to have a ring. A pretty ring that I'd wear on my left hand. Not on the ring finger, mind you, but on my middle finger. Nobody gave it to me, or anything. I bought it at J.C. Penney for like 12 bucks. 

At first glance, guys would always think I was wearing that ring on my wedding ring finger. I got tired of people asking, "Oooh, what finger is that ring on?! Who gave it to you? Is he cute?" No. No no. I gave it to myself! Because I saw it in the store and I liked it! So I bought it. Because I could.

I just remembered this ring because I was looking through old pictures and found this one:
See that pretty ring? Well, it's kinda hard to see in this picture. But I used to wear that ring all the time. I guess it could look like a wedding ring, it's nice and shiny and stuff. But you can tell it's pretty cheap if you look up close. Anyway, point of the story is, I loved that ring. But a year ago I thought, "You know, probably as long as I have this ring I'll never get married because guys will just see something shiny on my hand and lose interest." So at an institute activity I fake-proposed to a guy I didn't even know and put my ring on his finger, and wouldn't let him give it back. I'd finally found an opportunity to rid myself of this troublesome thing. I knew if I tried just taking it off and leaving it at home somewhere it would wind up back on my finger. 

I suppose life has been different since I ditched my ring. But I doubt I can attribute any differences to absence of ring. That would've happened anyway. I think.

Why am I telling this story? I don't remember. Sometimes I do weird things. Like Monday night I stayed up on campus 'til 3 in the morning working on a recording project. And another time I took a job as an early-morning custodian when I didn't even really need a job. Whoa, I just made a weird brain thingy. A thought. So, that thing I just said about me taking a custodial job? Well, waking up early is one of my very least-favorite things to do. Like sometimes I think I could commit murder in the mornings. So that's really weird I'd take a job that required me to wake up so early. And then, get this: my other least-favorite thing is talking on the telephone. And what's my current occupation? I work at a call center. A call center! Where I have to make calls. On the phone. Silly me. Why do I do these things to myself?! It's like how I get really bad side aches when I run, but I did Cross Country all 4 years of high school. 

Let's go back to this telephone hatred of mine. It's so much easier just talking to people in person. Or texting. I like texting. But talking on the phone is painful. There's always that awkward delay so you start talking when you think they're not talking, but then they're talking at the same time. Or you can't hear what they say so you have to say, "What?" four times before you finally just pretend like you understood them. I have fun leaving voice messages, though, even if I do usually sound ridiculous in them.

People should just do what they want to. Because they want to. Or do things they don't want to do, but not 'cause someone made them. Just for fun. I mean, sure, I hate waking up early and I hate phone calls, but no one forced me into those jobs. Why feel pressured into not doing things I want to (aka the ring!), and then just choosing on my own to do things I don't want to do (like mornings and phone calls)? Silly Jilli.

I miss my ring.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Favorite Things About Eternity: A Trilogy. Part Three.

Eternity is incomprehensible to me. It's a pretty big concept to grasp, to make decisions and get through trials with eternity in mind. Every once in a while I have a glimpse into eternity and I'm reminded that things really are bigger than just this life, but that what we do here really is important and that it's not the end. Most of these moments involve my family, which is why I've chosen to write this Eternity Trilogy primarily about them.

Part One was all about my parents, the people who helped me to start out on my wonderful journey into eternity and Part Two introduced you all to my lovely siblings and the families that the older ones have started. I know Kristen has been waiting for Part Three so that you could all hear how wonderful my cousins are. So as to not disappoint her, let me just say right now, Kristen Nelson is one excellent individual. I'm lucky to have an awesome, talented, beautiful, magnanimous cousin like her.

But actually, today's post, the final part of my trilogy, is more about me and the eternity I have ahead of me. One of the teachings of my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is that families can last forever, that these precious relationships we treasure in life don't end with death. I believe in this wholeheartedly. And this isn't just some side belief of our church, but it's really one of the main reasons we're here. Families are an essential part of God's plan, and they are meant to last for an eternity. Multiple eternities, if there is such thing. 

A few weeks ago my dad was telling me how important it is to marry someone who you can love forever. Because even though our families our eternal, my children will someday have spouses and have their own families, and their children will have spouses, and on and on...I'll be able to go and visit my parents on whatever world they're ruling in the eternities (or however that works), but they won't have their children always living with them because their children and their children's spouses will have their own worlds to rule (or whatever we're going to be doing). When their children (a.k.a. my siblings and I) are all grown up and moved out of the house will my parents be happy together living in a house with just the two of them? Yes, they will, and I know that love and happiness will carry on through eternity.

And this is one of my favorite things about eternity: I get to find someone who loves me, who (whom?) I also love, and be with him forever. 

I remember the millions of bajillions of lists that we'd make in Young Women's, my church group of girls ages 12-17, growing up. Lists composed of all the things we wanted to have in our future eternal companion, all of the qualities our special someone needed to have. The first lists included things like, "cute, tall, intelligent, funny, nice," and then, thrown in at the end, something like, "spiritual," to make it not seem so shallow. As I got older my lists would change, both the lists I'd make in church lessons and my own mental lists. If I went back and sorted through all of my old stuff at home I bet I could find at least four such lists, possibly more. Then we'd have lessons about how instead of trying to find the right person we needed to be the right person. This is true. But it's still fun to look back on those lists, even if the lists were impossibly demanding of any young man we could hope to marry. In fact, maybe that's why they're so fun to look back at.

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent. A related tangent. Back to now...Eternity is a wonderful gift, even though I don't fully understand it. It hurts my head sometimes to think about it. I'm excited to spend forever with the man that I choose to love forever, whomever (Or is it whoever? I never know which to use.) he may be. I'm excited to always have someone by my side, to always have someone to talk to, to have someone to serve and love. I'm excited to have children who will, of course, be perfect little angels. I'm excited to progress. 

I assume eternity will come sooner than I think. I'm already going to be graduating from college in a year, and school is something I thought would last forever. Not even close. Today in church someone made the comment that eternity isn't just a future thing. It's now. It's in the past. The life we had before coming to earth was part of eternity, my finals I have to take this week are a part of eternity, and everything I'm going to do in my future, the things that come after death, are also a part of eternity. I'm living my eternity right now, with my parents and my siblings and my friends and, maybe someday soon(er or later), my eternal companion. Eternity rocks, and eternal families are the very most rockingest part.

Another cool thing about eternity? Dinosaurs.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Commercial Break

I know I'm way overdue for writing Part 3 of my trilogy, but I feel like writing a post right now! and I don't feel like finishing up my trilogy yet. And it's my blog and blogs are for writing/doing whatever you want to whenever you want to, so that's what I'm going to do! Yeah. So there. So I guess this here is just a commercial break from my Eternity Trilogy (which, you can read parts one and two here and here if you haven't read them yet).

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to do anything at all besides what you're supposed to be doing? Even if the things you're supposed to be doing are somewhat enjoyable, they're made less enjoyable by the fact that you're supposed to be doing them. Sometimes I have so many things I'm supposed to be doing that my mind kinda blocks them out and allows me to facebook or write blog posts or watch an episode of Psych, instead. 

Speaking of Psych, look at this awesome t-shirt I designed that I really, really want:

The shirts, of course, wouldn't have that red dotted line around the pictures. That's just there for when you're designing them online. If I were to get Victoria one it'd look like this, with the same "Whaaat!" back as mine:
Everybody loves Gus. I wish they had the picture of Shawn in the episode where he's a cowboy. Mmmm!

It is so super-duper sunny outside today. I want to go swimming. But I don't have a new swimsuit yet.  I want to get this one from Lime Ricki:

The Hunger Games movie comes out tonight. I so so so so sooooooo want to see it right now! I'm going on Saturday. Whoa. That's in two days! I guess I can wait until then. 49 hours and 20 minutes. Yes, I can wait that long.

I really should do my homework. Here's a list of things I've done today instead of what I'm supposed to be doing:
  • facebook
  • walking slowly to and from campus, delaying the inevitable (which really isn't all that inevitable because I'm still not doing it)
  • sitting in the sun with a boy
  • two bowls of ice cream (Rocky Road!)
  • nap
  • blog post
That's actually not a bad list. And they're all pretty important things. They're just not as urgent as homework, I guess. I did read a book for one of my classes for a while today. And now I'm going to get my financial management assignment done, because I can feel my desire to blog and my procrastination juices draining. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Favorite Things About Eternity: A Trilogy. Part Two.

I'm finally writing part two of my Eternity Trilogy! (If you missed part one, here it is.) Today's post is about my lovely siblings, so if you don't have a lot of time on your hands you should probably just not read it right now. Because I have 8 siblings. And 3 sisters-in-law. And 2 nieces. And 1 nephew. And they're all really great. So this blog post could go on forever and ever. It might be the eternal blog post. In which case you'll never get to read it because I'll just be writing it forever. So if you're reading this right now, that means it's not an eternal blog post.

I really think I have the best family. No family is perfect, but my family is perfect for me. I fall right smack dab in the middle of the 9 children, the oldest girl after 4 boys in a row. I love looking back and seeing how my relationship with my family has changed during the process of my growing up. When I was living at home I never did much with my older brothers, except for Daxson the last year or so that he lived at home before he left for college and on a mission and things. It's almost like there are two different families--the four older boys and then my four younger siblings--and I just kind of float around in between the two. It's fun. 

Ever since I moved to Provo after my graduation from high school I've loved getting to know my older brothers. They used to be just my older brothers; I didn't really know them very well. Now they're my friends! I love doing things with them and eating dinner that they make for me and washing laundry for free at their houses. I am super lucky that we all live in the Provo area right now. It'll be sad when we start moving away.

Kyle Alan Hale is my oldest brother, and he's married to the lovely Jennifer Lucy. They live in Orem and I love going to visit them, although it doesn't happen nearly as often anymore as it should. Kyle is one of my songwriting heroes, right up there with Sara Bareilles and Billy Joel. I remember listening to songs he'd write when I was younger, and I was just amazed that he had such a gift and I always wished I could do that. Now that I actually do write my own songs, I love going to Kyle and Jennifer for songwriting tips, and also just to show them stuff I've come up with or things that I'm doing for my music classes. Jennifer is an important part of our family. I feel like the moment we transitioned from being a family to really loving our family and showing that love was when she came into our lives. I'm not saying it was all her, but she's such a bubbly, loving, fun person that you can't help but love her and then want to try and love other people the same way she loves you. Also, she makes really good food.

Jeremiah Thomas Hale is married to Danielle! They just had a beautiful baby girl, Liana Jade. Jerry's the only one of my brothers who ever beats up on me. I guess that makes me pretty lucky, having the possibility of five brothers to beat up on me; it's just unfortunate that Jerry's the strongest of them. But anyway, we'll leave the topic of abusiveness and talk about Jerry's better qualities. Like his wife, Danielle. Danielle has the most angelic voice. We're both music majors, so it's been fun running into her in the HFAC (the fine arts building on campus) the past couple of years, and being able to talk to her about things going on in my life. My niece Liana is a beauty to behold. Even though I've only beheld her once. (Correction: twice! I just went and saw her again tonight, halfway through writing this blog entry.) I just remembered more of Jerry's good qualities: He really loves sports, and I enjoy going to BYU basketball games with him or just watching other sports things on TV. He's also very smart and has things figured out. Also he has a weird/awesome sense of humor and I think he likes having me around because a lot of times I'm the only who'll laugh at his jokes.

Tobin Jack and Trista Nicole Hale have two of the cutest children ever, Kalan Jack (my favorite nephew I've ever had) and Harper Grace (one of the two favorite nieces I've ever had). Tobin and Trista live the closest to me of any of my siblings (except Victoria, who sleeps seven feet away from me every night), and I love being able to go over for dinner or to play games, or to play with Kalan. Trista makes the best chicken nuggets and pulled pork tacos in all of the land. I'm getting hungry just thinking about them. Trista also makes super cutesy, artsy things. Maybe someday I'll be able to be that awesome. Tobin is an amazing pianist. When I was taking piano lessons growing up he always inspired me to want to practice and get better. He can automatically do on the piano what the rest of us have to practice at for hours (and days and weeks) to be able to play. Kalan is awesome and I love it when he gets all hyper and wants to wrestle. I also love Kalan kisses. Harper can't do any of that yet, but she's good at being cute.

Daxson doesn't have any good pictures up on facebook. However, there is this here picture that he made. Because he's awesome. Isn't it wonderful? Daxson is really great. He recently made it into the film major at BYU (I forget what it's called...Media Arts?), and is going to do awesome things. He loves watching movies, and I like getting to watch movies with him. Children are strangely attracted to Daxson. It's weird. Kids just love him. Especially my nephew Kalan. I don't spend nearly enough time with Daxson. Last night I went to his apartment and watched "The Help" and then played Mario Kart and some dumb football game that I lost. Because the only sort of game I can play successfully is Mario Kart. (By successfully I mean that I don't lose every time.) Anyway, that was fun. Oh, speaking of this picture of Daxson's, he made it for a film project he recently finished. Check it out! Okay?

So, right here in the middle is where I belong. 
Moving on...

Victoria Skye is a babe. She is also my roommate. She is single and ready to mingle! She's also going to kill me after she sees that I wrote that. Victoria and I are two years and 3 days apart. Because of this we've always shared the very special bond that can only be gained by repeatedly receiving almost identical (but different-colored) birthday presents every year. She is a freshman at BYU this year, and it's nice having a roommate who is almost as messy as I am so that she can only get kind of mad when my half of the room is dirty instead of really mad. She's really smart and super duper kind to everyone around her. Even people who don't deserve kindness. Also, she's the reason I eat real meals every once in a while. She's a great cook, and she's less lazy than I am, and it's good to have her around. Oh, something else I like is that I can be completely crazy and super weird when I'm around Victoria, and I know that she'll be just as weird or stranger, so it's okay to just let myself get hyper. No judging. 

Why are my sisters so beautiful? Gretchen Ainsley Hale is just the nicest person. She is greatly desired by all the men, and for good reason. She's super smart, completely gorgeous, and she's quite witty. She knows right from wrong, and she makes decisions based on what she knows will make her happy. She's a great little writer. I actually kind of got the idea for this Eternity Trilogy from Gretchen's blog entry where she talks about our family. I think it was her 2nd blog post. Gretchen plays the flute and the piano. She has a fun sense of fashion and gets away with wearing the most unique things. But she always wears things. So that's good. Gretchen is a great older and younger sister. She inspires me to be better and to make good choices because I know she's looking up to me. Also I know that she wants to be looked up to by her younger siblings, and she's paving the way for them. Also if we had the same color of hair and eyes and skin we would look like twins.

Tansy doesn't have facebook yet, so there wasn't a plethora of photos to choose from for her. I found this in one of my albums, though. Tansy Rebecca is also my twin. And we even have the same color of hair and eyes. Except Tansy's hair is more blond. And her eyes are more grey. And she's much better-looking. And a little bit shorter and younger. But other than that, twins! Tansy is so smart and so ambitious. She loves music and she has the voice of a lovely song bird! I love talking to Tansy about boys. She's going to be a heartbreaker when she gets old enough to break hearts. She's in a musical right now (as is Mason), and I'm excited to get to go home and see it in a couple/few weeks. Tansy is very dramatic and likes attention, so I'm sure she will be great for the part she's playing. Also, Tansy's a really good friend to her little brother Mason. I remember when they were both tiny and they loved each other so much. Now they have to pretend like they don't love each other as much, but they're still great friends.

Mason Burke Hale is my favorite little brother. Seriously, he's the best little brother I've ever had, and probably ever will have. He's very perceptive and loves learning all sorts of things. Basically, he has a million brains. Mason really loves me, and I'm glad that he misses me when I'm not with him. When I first moved to college it took like my whole freshman year for him to realize that he missed me when I wasn't home. It feels good to be missed. It feels good to be greeted by someone running towards you yelling "Jiiiilliaaaaaaan!!" and then giving you a tackle hug when you pull up in the driveway late Friday night when you're visiting home for the weekend. I love calling Mason and talking on the phone and hearing how he's doing and what book(s) he's reading and what computer game I interrupted him from playing when I called him. I remember when he was little, Mason and I would have dinosaur fights. He was always a T-Rex and I was a Velociraptor. He knew all about all the different kinds of dinosaurs. Mason is learning how to be a good friend, and he does an excellent job of thinking of those around him. 

And these are some of the wonderful people who make eternity such a wonderful gift! Can you believe I get to be with them for EVER? How did I get to be so lucky? Today in church our Sacrament Meeting talks were all about marriage and eternal families and covenants. Classic singles' ward topics. I'm not married yet, but I do already have the start to a wonderful eternal family. Really, that's the thing that makes the idea of eternity so appealing...I don't ever have to leave the people I love! Right now I'm lucky because more than half of my family lives in the Utah Valley, and the other half is only 3 1/2 hours away in good ol' Oakley, Idaho! Someday in this life, though, we will all move away and be more separated by distance, and it's comforting to know that I will always love them and I will always be able to call them my family. What a blessing!

Not that Daxson will make it this far into this blog post (if he even gets through any of it), but I felt bad that I didn't have a real picture up of him. So here's a picture of Gretchen and Daxson (and Victoria's chin):

And noooow...stay tuned for my blog post next week (hopefully), which will be the part three of my trilogy! Aren't you just so excited to see what else is one of my favorite things about eternity?

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Favorite Things About Eternity: A Trilogy. Part One.

Today is my parents' thirtieth anniversary. They've been married for thirty whole years! So today is a good day to start my three-part blog entry on my very favorite things about eternity! 

My parents are the best parents I could have asked for. Maybe I did ask for them. They do, and have done, so much for me!

So, we'll start with Daddy...Alan K Hale.
I like this picture because my dad and I look so much alike, I think. My dad is a strong person. He's a hard worker. And he loves his family more than anything on this earth...more than money, more than work, more than toys. Even more than himself, I think. If he ever has to make a decision between saving himself a few extra bucks or making his children better off, he'll choose his children. Every time. Not only is he great for his family, but he takes his career seriously and everyone he works with looks up to him. It makes me happy to know that my dad gives his very best at work, too, and that others recognize his greatness. My dad gave me a love for hunting and camping and fishing. He raised me to love BYU football. He gave me his blond hair and blue eyes. I think that one of his greatest qualities is that he teaches by example. He lives the things that he teaches. He's always trying to be better. When I date guys I always compare them to my dad, and to the things I've seen my dad do and the ways he's grown and improved. Whoever I marry will have some big shoes to fill.

Now, on to Mommy. Lynette Burke Hale.
My mom is Supermom. She makes the best homemade bread. Actually, every food that she makes is delicious (except perhaps foods that aren't meant to be Cowboy Delight and tuna casserole. And meatloaf. know, all those gross foods). Somehow I think that talent or gift got passed on to me, 'cause I can't seem to make bad food lately. I should cook more. Anyway...back to Mom. She is the best listener I know. She's really good at saying the right things, even when people don't want to hear them. She somehow just knows what to say and is really good at communicating. She loves her children (and three grandchildren) so much! She is always so proud of her children, and unlike most parents, she has a right to think her children are the best, because they really are. My mom is a good example of someone who loves learning and improving. She's attending the community college right now, and getting better grades than I am at my college! She has always supported and encouraged her children to take music lessons and dance lessons and do sports and school clubs and everything they want to do. My mom encourages me to be my best and keep on gettin' better!

My parents are still very much in love. They respect each other. They know each other so well that they're basically pretty much the same person.
I can safely say that my parents are at least 1.8576% of the reason I'm so awesome. Okay, maybe a bit more than that. I'm grateful my parents are so strong and happy. And so darn good-lookin'! 
They are one of my favorite things about eternity...

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Pop! I love you.

(Stay tuned for next week's post about another of my siblings!)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Peace I Leave With You

I want to tell you about my Grandpa, Wayne Alma Burke. He's one of the strongest men I've known. When I think of him I just think of firmness, something solid and majestic as the mountains. Tall and quiet and firm. I remember him singing to me, I remember him teaching me to draw pine trees, I remember listening to him for hours as he'd tell some story or explain a concept in great detail. 
Grandpa Burke was an artist and a musician. He played every instrument, I think, but the three that come to mind are trombone, flute, and voice. As you'll see in the picture above, he played the mandolin! At least, I think that's what that is. He brought it to Family Camp one summer and played it for us, and afterwards he showed me how to play it. I don't remember how anymore, though. I remember him giving Victoria and Tobin trombone lessons, and teaching Gretchen things about the flute. He didn't play the oboe like me, but I remember us talking about it and the things he taught me in other areas of music flowed over into my oboe playing.

Grandpa helped enlarge my love for music, and I will always be grateful for that. I'm so blessed to have been given a natural talent that is so inspiring and alleviating and telling. I love that when I perform music, or even when I'm just listening to or practicing music, I can feel Grandpa with me. It's like he's a part of the music.

Click the black box to play song if the video doesn't pop up --^
This isn't a recording of him, but Grandpa Burke once sang this song at a funeral. Probably at other funerals, too, but I just remember one. I think it was my great-grandmother's, his mother's. This is a beautiful song by George Dyer called "In My Father's House Are Many Mansions." I bought it one year ago today when I was thinking of Grandpa. Every time I listen to this song I can hear my grandpa singing it, and whenever I'm going through a difficult time, the lyrics of this song come to me, in my grandfather's voice:

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you: 
Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid...

Four years ago today my Grandpa Burke died of cancer. The months of prayer and fasting and hoping leading up to that day were very hard. They also come to me now as serene memories, despite the sadness of losing a loved one. Those times were hard, but filled with peace. They unified my family. They made the love within my family be realized, and grow. It's a miracle that this could have happened, even if it wasn't the miracle we were hoping for.

I can't believe that four years have already passed without him. I love that I have things that remind me of Grandpa. I love that every time someone reads John 14:27 in church I can hear Grandpa's voice singing to me. I love that when I play music I can use techniques that he taught me so that he is a part of my music. I love going to an orchestra concert and feeling connected to my grandfather who loved music so much, as if he's never really too far away. Because, really, he's not. 

That's the legacy that Grandpa Burke left for me. A legacy of peace. A legacy of music. The legacy of the hope and love and comfort that come with that very peace and music that he left for me. I'm grateful today for the man that he was, and that he will always be a part of my life. Forever and ever.