Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Being Prepared...and other stuffs

I remember giving a talk in church soon after I returned home from my mission.  The topic assigned to me was 'Be Prepared' and specifically listed the parable of the 10 virgins.  Somewhere in preparation for that talk I decided that the oil that the 5 prepared virgins had was their testimony, and so I presented the idea as such.

Today, I was grateful that the Lord had filled my lantern in several different ways.

I was at work, but today, because of blessed standardized testing (note the sarcasm), I was in the counseling office answering phones and doing remedial office work-It.was.awesome.  If all I had to do all day was file papers, answer phones, look cute, and think of something funny to say to students as they waited to get into trouble, my life would be perfect.  I will be there tomorrow.  I am in substitute teaching heaven.

Anyways, I was sitting there, checking the spelling on the diplomas of the graduating class of 2011 when a woman walked in and in Spanish asked to see her son.  I explained that he was in testing and she said that he was a junior (they weren't testing today) and that they had a doctor's appointment.  She had a skirt and a matching blouse on, but had a dew-rag on her head.  I thought it was strange, but I have seen odder things, so I went about the process of locating her son and getting him to her.

As I continued to check the spelling of the worlds most awful names (a subject for another post), I looked up and noticed that she was watching me.  I smiled.  She smiled back and I thought I saw the glint of a tear.  I asked her if she was alright, and she burst into tears.  I rushed to the other side of the desk where she was sitting, put my arm around her and asked her what was wrong.

'Its just that this might be the last time I come to pick my son up from school.'  she cried.

'Why would you think that?' I asked.

' I have brain cancer, I don't know how much longer I am going to live.' was her reply.  Then she added, 'I am so tired.'

I started to tear up with her.  I confided in her that my own mother had just been diagnosed with cancer and that she too was much more tired than she used to be.  I asked her the treatments she was on, and was not shocked to find that they were some of the same ones my mother had done.  I told her that my mom was just now, a few months after her treatments, starting to get her energy, and that she couldn't think like she was going to be gone.  I told her that there was power in faith, that she needed to believe she was going to get better and in doing so she WOULD get better.  I promised her that if she would have faith in God's plan for her that everything would work out for the best, but asked her to be strong for her children, because they needed her to believe that she was going to be alright.

As I spoke with her, she was calmed.  I recognized the familiar, 'Asi es' and 'Amen Señor' phrases that I heard so often as a missionary, and right on cue, as she was wiping the tears from her eyes, her son walked in.  She stood up, he put his arm around her, and she said, 'Que el Señor te bendiga.'  May the Lord bless you.

I thought a lot today about the different things that prepared me for just that moment...The countless hours on my mission comforting those who stood in need of comfort, learning to speak the language and say things in a way that people would understand, hundreds of hours in university classrooms, hours on my knees pleading for my own mother's life...

And one night, preparing a talk for sacrament.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rise All Loyal Cougars

I'm not gonna lie...  I got this letter the other day, and it made me cry.

Dear Graduate:
On behalf of the College of Humanities, we in the deans' office express our congratulations on the occasion of your graduation. This is a significant accomplishment, and we are happy that you chose to purse a degree in the Humanities at Brigham Young University.  If we are doing our job properly, there is no better place to study nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples than in our College, where we have the opportunity to learn from distinguished faculty about the world and the people around us from the perspectives of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As you complete your education at BYU, you go out into a world that will challenge you in many ways.  We hope that we have helped prepare you, both intellectually and spiritually, for those challenges and that you will sense the opportunity and obligation you have to represent this university and our sponsoring Church with honor.
In your personal, professional, church, and civic lives you will have opportunities to demonstrate the careful reasoning, the tolerance, the humility, and the sense of values that lie at the heart of the humanities.  You should be less vulnerable to cheap rhetoric, more open to differing opinions, less enamored of your own capacities and possessions, and more committed to the Gospel and to the principles of right and virtue than are those who lack your background.
We are proud of you and your graduating class and believe that you will expand on the academic and moral education that you have received at Brigham Young University.  As you do, we too will be expanded, and this institution will become stranger and more mature.  The resources that you, the Church, and your families have expended in providing for your studies will be repaid through your service and faith.
May you remember with pride and pleasure the time you spent at Brigham Young University.
Today, I will walk across that stage and officially close the door on my BYU Career.  That may not seem like something all that important for some of you, but let me let you in on a little secret.

I dropped out of college in 2003.

Its a long story and I won't go into the details, sufficeth to say that I know what its like to fail.  I went through a lot of hard things, learned a lot of important lessons about myself, served a mission, learned a new language and decided to try again. It took all the courage in the world for me to stand up, brush myself off and try again.  I sincerely thought at times that it just wasn't in the cards for me to put my life back together, that I just wasn't one of those people who would finish college and go on to have careers. There were times when I couldn't believe in myself.  

As Elder Neal A. Maxwell observed: “It is not an easy thing … to be shown one’s weaknesses. … Nevertheless, this is part of coming unto Christ, and it is a vital, if painful, part of God’s plan of happiness.” 

The challenging process of facing and overcoming our weaknesses can refine us, make us more profitable servants, and bring us closer to the Savior. Through this whole endeavor, I have learned that the Lord knows me better than I know myself.  Sometimes I think I am weak.  He knows better.  I have learned (through running, school and the like) that I am only as weak as I think I am.  Which adversely means that I am only as STRONG as I think I am.  Jumping this hurdle has taught me that I am strong, and that I have a lot to offer.

I am so glad that I had to go through what I have been through.  And I am so glad that this trial is over.  I am excited for the new chapter in my life, and excited at the prospect of helping my students get through what I have been through.  I know that the Lord blesses us with trials so that we in turn can help others through the same things.

You better believe my kids will wake up every morning to me singing the fight song.  I am so proud of where I have come from and where I am going.
Plus I get to wear this hat.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Running With Brittni

Last Saturday...

5:00 a.m. Hear alarm go off, press snooze

5:30 a.m. Hear alarm go off again, drag myself out of bed

6:00 a.m. Start the 17 mile run on my usual trail, oddly see no one

6:45 a.m. Get a little tired and think about maybe not doing the whole run

7:00 a.m. Start to get really tired, think a lot more about quitting, decide not to

7:30 a.m. Get a text from my lovely friend Felicia that says, 'When the running gets hard...remember who its for...that makes it easier...;) you can do it!!

7:31 a.m. Start to think about what Brittney would have done in my situation, decide she would say hello to everyone who ran or biked passed her and do the same.

7:45-8:50 a.m. Hear words of encouragement from complete strangers that help me get through one of the most painful runs yet.

I had a really cool experience this last week on my long run.  I started saying hello to everyone.  Now this is nothing new for me.  I am often found striking up a conversation with the cashier, the person in the check out line behind me, teachers I don't know in the teachers lounge...I don't have a problem talking.  But at the gym, or on a run, I am usually in the zone.  I have an angry face and I just do my thing.  So as I was struggling to put my milage in this weekend, I was reminded why I am running this marathon.  Its not for me.  I have toyed with the idea for several years, but it was the events of last summer that made me decide to do it, officially.  So I started to run as if I were Brittney.  I thought about how happy she would have been just being out on a beautiful morning, and so I said good morning to everyone I saw.  As the run got harder, these perfect strangers started to encourage me.  They would say things like, 'You're almost there!' and 'You're doing really good!'  They would smile and say, 'You're still going??' and with each kind word they said to me, I could almost feel Britt running along side me.

I have never felt such physical exhaustion as I do when I am running lately.  I have never been so nervous and even a little scared to do something as I am to do this race, but I was reminded yesterday of a scripture in John that fits my situation so perfectly.

John 16:33:  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer;
I have overcome the world.

I'm still pretty nervous about the race.  26.2 miles is a long way and I haven't even gotten to where I need to be yet, but I know that I can do it.  I have the support of so many, family especially and friends from all over who encourage and bless my life.  Most importantly I have a Savior who loves me and inspires me to be my best self.  Without that I would never be able to accomplish all that I have done and will do.

Plus, I'll be running with Brittney, and that's all the help I need.