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.