Monday, December 19, 2011

The Farewell

I´ll keep this short and sweet, because I'm going to redirect you to a different blog. My cousin Wesley is leaving shortly after the holidays for his mission in California. This past Sunday we went to his ward to listen to his Farewell talk. It reminded me of something my grandfather would have said. They are both full of wisdom. I'm grateful for my cousin Wesley and his example. He also has a blog and has posted his farewell talk there- I would highly recommend reading it:
http://wessence.blogspot.com/2011/12/farewell-of-elder-curtin-follow-saviors.html

You have intelligence, Question everything!

Love Always,
Michelle

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How to Succor his Children

It's been so long since I posted. School has been crazy getting ready for finals, but more than that- I was in Mexico last week. I went with my family to work on some houses in Florido- just outside of Tijuana. The house that we spent most of our time was a family who had come to the US and while they were gone, their house was COMPLETELY stripped. No doors, no windows, no toilet... not even wires! So we worked to make it livable again. 





I also helped work on another house that I helped stekko. The house was in very poor conditions, so much that they didn't even really have a workable roof over their heads. The family was very sweet though. It was a grandma and grandpa, their deaf daughter and her child. 




Working on the houses was great, but I kept trying to think of other things that these people may be in need of. It didn't help that I speak almost no Spanish, but I really wish I could have known exactly what these people needed- sometimes spiritual, emotion and physical needs are more important to a person then temporal needs. 




When I got back from Mexico and went to my New Testament class again, we were to Christ's Atonement. It would take me forever to write everything that I've learned about the atonement just this year, but one things that I do love about the atonement is written in Alma 7:11-12...


11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and aafflictions andbtemptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will ctake upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
 12 And he will take upon him adeath, that he may bloose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to csuccorhis people according to their infirmities.
... that he may know... how to succor his people! What I was lacking in Mexico was what Christ knows perfectly. He's knows exactly what people need- beyond the things that are seen. I can see that these people really needed better structure for their homes, but I couldn't see if they needed a friend, if they were struggling to know truth, or if they had some unseen sickness. But Christ does. 
 
He knows exactly how to succor his people and because he loves us so immensely, he is willing to do so.
Love Always,
Michelle 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

None Were with Him, but He is Always with Us.

Right now I'm taking a New Testament class at BYU. I've learned so much from that class. We are to the point in the reading where we are "moments away" from Christ in Gethsemane and his Atonement. I have learned so much about the love of Christ, the nature of Christ, and my personal relationship with Christ in this class. When everything and everyone else fails, He does not.
A couple years ago, Elder Holland gave a talk called "None Were With Him"- that talk completely changed my perspective.
Even though it is an "Easter Message" I think it is just as fitting any other time of the year- and especially for me at this time...


And if you'd like to watch the full talk- it is here:



I am so grateful for my relationship with Christ and for the knowledge of Him and His sacrifice. I want everyone to be able to truly understand what He did for us. He did it so we could be forgiven of our sins. He did it so we could return to be with him. He did it because He loves us.
Love Always,
Michelle

P.S. I will be in Mexico during Thanksgiving so- Happy Thanksgiving! I have so much to be grateful for! Family, friends, education, nature, my experiences... and first and foremost knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and my relationship with my Savior.
What are you grateful for?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Temples

When I was in Iceland, I was given a beautiful book. It wasn't beautiful because it looked nice- it's fairly plain actually, but beautiful because of what it contained. It contained my Icelandic family history. We already had a lot of the information from the genealogy already done by the church and my family members, but now this portion of my family tree was complete.

A beautiful thing about the gospel of Jesus Christ is the importance of family and the knowledge that death can not separate us. Many may wonder why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has so many temples. Along with other reasons, we do ordinances like baptisms for those who have passed on.


Many of my ancestor's ordinances have already been completed, but after receiving the book of genealogy when I went to Iceland, I was able to find 35 names of people who still have work to be finished.
On Friday I was able to go to the temple with my Mom and my little brother to do some of that proxy work for our relatives who have passed on. My brother did 5 baptisms and confirmations in place for 5 of the men and I was able to do 7 baptisms and confirmations for the women.
One of the names I had was a sibling to one of the boy names that my brother did. What a beautiful thing that siblings could do temple work for siblings who had passed on. Of course, they have the choice to accept or reject the gospel on the other side of the "veil" because they have their agency, but I would pray and the feelings of the temple make me believe that they would accept this beautiful work.

We talked about in my New Testament class this week how Christ has set up this wonderful temple work. The work is done so that all have the opportunity to return to live with him again. And when He comes again, this type of missionary work will continue on so that all can chose to accept fully the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It's a little bit of a different type of "missionary work" to prepare for my mission and to those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, this work may be a little confusing, but I have a testimony of genealogy and temple work and am so grateful for my ancestors and all they did so that I could be here today. I have such a great love for them.

Love Always,
Michelle

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Light

At my great grandmother's funeral this year my grandfather gave a wonderful talk about Light. I wouldn't dare try to repeat it or explain it, because of the depth of thought behind it, but it got me thinking more about light in the scriptures. Then I read an article about the symbolism of light called "Light: A Masterful Symbol".

One of the things that it points out is that light and understanding of light can come slowly. In a literal sense, if we were in a pitch dark room and then suddenly turned on a bright flood light, our eyes would feel pain from the intense change. Instead, it is best to turn on lights slowly and allow our eyes to adjust.

Similarly, if we tried to learn everything there ever was within the gospel of Jesus Christ in just one quick change, we would be overwhelmed and possibly even pained while trying to adjust to it all at once. Instead, Christ's gospel was meant to be simple- to be learned "line upon line, precept upon precept".
Let the light of the gospel come in gradually, just as the light of the morning arises slowly, yet brilliantly.

As I prepare for a mission, I can already look back and see how much my sun has risen- how much I have learned. I wouldn't have realized it at the time but the change is brilliant. I hope to be able to show others how  brilliant life can be when you just let in the light of Christ. The light of Christ is based on and in love and that makes it the most brilliant kind of light I know.


Love Always,
Michelle

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You Are More Than You Have Become

Yesterday was a fantastic day. How could it not be when it started with the Prophet of God and a Lion King Quote?

President Thomas S. Monson came to BYU yesterday for devotional. The Marriott Center was crowded. I went early and still sat way up in the nose bleeds, because who would want to miss listening first hand to the Prophet of God?
 I said a little prayer before I left that he would say something that was particularly pertinent to me. Guess what he talked about? A whole lot of things that can be related to missionary work. He talked about how we need to share our Light of Christ and be an "example of the believers". He talked about ways to study the scriptures better. The part that everyone talked about, though, was when he quoted The Lion King.

"You are MORE than what you have become!.... REMEMBER who you are!"


We have so much potential as children of God and we should really work towards that. President Monson also talked about how when you "chose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed".

So many great things in his devotional I could talk on and on about. President Monson is a wonderful, loving, fun person and I'm so grateful for him.

The rest of my day was also amazing. Several personal experiences. I did a lot of scripture reading, trying to do, at least in part, a more sincere reading of the scriptures. What a blessing that has been already as I prepare to testify of this wonderful Book.

One personal experience I will share. As I was driving home from my family's house last night the stars where beautiful. The 3 stars in a line that point heavenwards (Orion's belt?) where so much brighter than I remember and they were literally twinkling. I had a hard time keeping my eyes on the road, because I wanted to look at them so badly. And then as I drove past the beautiful Timpenogas Temple, it became even harder to keep my eyes on the road. Then, even though it was past midnight and I really needed to get back to my apartment, I felt like I should pull over. So I did. I looked at how beautiful the temple with angel Moroni looked with the stars so vivid above it. Then I payed attention to the song that was still playing on the radio- it was "We Are" by Kari Jobe


"So wake up sleeper, lift your head
We were meant for more than this..."

"We are the light of the world
We gotta, we gotta, we gotta let the light shine..."

"We are called to the spread the newsTell the world the simple truth
Jesus came to save, there's freedom in His Name
So let it all break through"

Could any song be more fitting to me and to what the Prophet had to say today?
I find myself listening to the Christian music station regularly. Although I don't share the exact same beliefs as other Christian denominations, Mormons ARE Christian and we share a lot of core values. God uses good things like good music for great purposes.

Once again, through that song and through things that I felt and heard yesterday, I know that I need to be preparing for a mission. I know the President Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet of God and I am so grateful for so many answered prayers yesterday.

Love Always,
Michelle

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Although our love is imperfect, He loves us perfectly


I love this talk by President Uchtdorf. Although "Love Always" is my motto, my love is far from perfect. And yet, He loves me (and you) perfectly. What an amazing principle. Although I struggle sometimes with some concepts, this is something that I know. He Loves Us Perfectly

Love Always,
Michelle

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Getting Into You

During my middle school aged years I had two very good friends Jordan and Adam. We had a lot of fun. We did a lot together from long talks after school to making rediculous home videos to campfires. My favorite memory of them though is a motage of similar moments. They used to sing and play the guitar for me. When they found out that I was moving, they took me up on the hill in my backyard and as we sat in the grass they sang and played the Relinet K song called getting into you:


And then every time I came to visit after that they would play that song and sing it. I loved it. Plus, they got better over time :) I have several recordings of them singing this song to me over the years. Not sure how/why that became my song (probably because it's the one they had practiced the most), but it's a good song, so I liked it.
However, the last time I went back to visit, I didn't get to hear the song from them. Not because they wouldn't sing it, but because they aren't there.
Both Jordan and Adam are serving full-time missions. Jordan is serving in California and Adam in Brasil.
The other day as I contemplated serving a mission, I was listening to Pandora. I can't remember what station I had it on, but a Relient K song came on and it flooded me with memories. Because of that, I quickly jumped on my laptop and searched for "Getting Into You" so I could listen and reminisce.
I always knew the general meaning of the song, but this time it was so applicable to us.
One of the first letters I wrote to my friend on his mission, I finished off with writing "Do you, know what you, are getting yourself into?" With a smiley face drawn next to it.
Now that it applies to me, it hit me even more. Do I know what I am getting myself into?
I thought about that as I listened to the song the other day. And then I heard the verse that says:
"I  love you and that's what you are getting yourself into"

That song now means even more to me. Who would have thought that 2 teenage boys could have such a positive impact? Now they are out fulfilling this song and I'm on my way.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I am a Child of God... and So Are YOU


I love this version of I am a Child of God, because it shows how the simplest principles still apply to us as we get older. We are ALL children of God. So much about life becomes clearer when you come to understand that simple, yet profound principle. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

He Loves Us

A few weeks before I decided to prepare for a mission, I had a wonderful conversation with my neice. She had just turned 3 years old.

She spent the night, and as I was putting her to bed, I asked her if she had said her prayers. She responded with something like "Yeah, I talk to Jesus".

I thought that was an interesting response so I asked her.. "oh yeah? Well what does Jesus say?"

And she said the most profound, in depth, perfect, honest, true statement I may have ever heard:

"He loves Me"

The scriptures about "out of the mouth of babes" and the wisdom of children are so true. Like 3 Nephi 26:16 that says "...yea, even babes did open their mouths and utter marvelous things..."

I realized then that everything else builds upon the love of Christ. We are loved. Christ loves us unconditionally. And we must love always as He has loves always.

After this little conversation, I continued to ask her. "...what else does he say?"

She responded with (in almost a DUH kind of way), "Just, He loves Us!" and then she turned to me and said sincerely- "I love you!" and gave me a hug and a kiss.

This lesson of love couldn't have been taught in a more profound way.
He Loves You too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Why

So why in the world would I decide to sacrifice 18 months of my life, 18 months of my education, 18 months of seeing my family and friends... to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? Especially since I'm a girl, and there is no pressure for me to serve?

Well, growing up I didn't think I would. I always thought it was an honorable, wonderful thing to do- but I thought I had other plans. Maybe I'd meet Mr. foreverafter and get married, maybe I'd continue to go abroad on service expeditions, maybe I'd finish school quickly and get right out into the work place.
I still thought I would have other plans, right up until about my 20th birthday...

So what changed my mind?

It started when I realized I was turning 20. My teenage years where coming to an end, and the rest of my life was in front of me. In the chuch, a girl can serve a mission when she turns 21- which meant it really wasn't that far off. It wasn't something I had originally planned on, but I decided to pray about it.
The timing worked out nicely, because it was right before general conference that I began to think about serving a mission. (General conference is a semi-annual worldwide broadcasted where we can listen directly to the Prophet- Prsident Thomas S. Monson and the apostles of God). I went to one of the sessions with a good friend of mine. Throughout conference, I felt over and over agian that I should serve a mission. Even the songs we song, felt very directed to me- like when we sang called to serve:
and several of the talks emphasized to me that a mission would be the best place for me to learn and grow and work on loving always.

but... I'm a stubborn person. I wanted to go, but not really. So I decided to pray some more. I had already set up a meeting with my bishop a few weeks earlier, so on the day of the meeting I fasted and prayed. I, in my imperfection, prayed almost reluctantly- something along the lines of "I really want to do this, and this or this and I'm not sure I reallly want to go, but if you reallly want me to I guess I will".
The other day I heard the expression "If you want to make God laugh- tell him your plans". Well apparently my plans were funny, because after meeting with my bishop (a very personal story which I don't think this is the best place for) I had- and have no doubt in my mind that I need to prepare to serve a mission.

I've always had a testimony of Jesus Christ, of the Book of Mormon and of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. However, even in the past 3ish weeks since I've made the decision to prepare- my testimony has increased tremendously.

I am incredibly grateful for this gospel and can not wait to have the opportunity to serve full time to share the love of Christ with the world (or state.. wherever I get called).

So what will I be doing? Here's an introduction that gives a good overview...


I am a very imperfect person, hoping to preach about a perfect gospel. It is a little bit terrifying, but I know it is important, so I will go and do whatever God has planned for me. Hopefully my preparation will help me become a better person as I learn and grow along the way. I know Christ loves me. And He certainly loves you too.

Love Always,
Michelle

Monday, September 12, 2011

Saunters


I have been blessed with many fantastic teachers throughout my life. However, one of those teachers will always be the person that I consider to be the most life-changing and memorable. Her name is Mrs. Schofield. She was my 4th grade teacher.

It would take a tremendous amount of time to write about all of the things she taught me. She was probably the teacher that taught us to be the most well-rounded we possibly could. She taught us how to write, to be creative, to imagine, to appreciate the world and especially to benefit from nature.

I remember in class we put on a huge play that she helped write called "Hubbub on the bookshelf". To this day it is because of her that I remember things like lines from Shakespeare or historical events or the symbolic significance of stories.


She also took us on Thursday Saunter Journeys. Our school had a forest behind it and was close to several other nature-filled areas. Almost every Thursday we would take some time to walk, as a class, back into the forests or fields. We would take our little journals and find our own personal spot to do the assignment (write a poem about what you see, write down all of the different plants you can find, make observations about how nature works...). When we were finished, we just sat and thought and appreciated the world.

By going out in nature we really learned much more then we could sitting in a class. At least, I learned much more than I ever thought I would. Looking back on that journal (yes, I still have my "saunter journal") I notice more and more how those little saunters down a dirt and overgrown path, lead me down the paths in my life. It helped me on my way through my own personal "journey".

By appreciating nature, we learned to appreciate the world. By appreciating the world, we learned to appreciate more ourselves and our place in this world.

I recently tried to find some contact information for her so I could send her a thank you, and in the process I found her class page. On the page was this:

Class Motto:
Go Forth and Conquer Thyself
I'm not sure if we ever had that motto while I was her student, but she certainly helped me on my way to achieving just that.

Looking back to 10 years ago, on September 11 in 2001, I can now realize that those saunters actually helped our class more fully understand and overcome the tragedies of that day. I remember walking into my 4th grade classroom and my teacher had the radio on. I learned through the static of the radio, the devastation happening on the other side of the nation. I think all that I learned in that year, through saunters and through creative writing and my teacher's example, taught me how to deal with and understand what was truly going on.

Even as years have passed, I continue to learn from my 4th grade teacher. As I've grown older, I've realized more and more what she sacrificed. When she was younger, she was a beautiful singer. A disease took her voice from her. She always wanted children of her own. She was never able to have any. She had a loving husband. He is no longer here. She went through so much in her life, yet was able to overcome all that she struggled with, to be the most amazing teacher I've ever had. I am so incredibly thankful for all that she taught me, not just academically, but all of the wonderful life lessons along the way as well.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Jar of Big Stones

Because of the generosity of family members, from my parents to my great aunt, I had the opportunity to go to Iceland (where my grandpa's heritage comes from) for 6 weeks.I kept a daily blog while I was there for my family which I called http://www.elskaalltaf.blogspot.com/ Elska means love and alltaf means always.

I spent the frist two weeks with a group of 11 others about my age who also had Icelandic heritage. We studied Icelandic at the University and had a great time walking the streets of Reykjavik. The next 3 weeks I spent on Brekkur farm near Vik, Iceland with my distant relatives Atli and Katrin and their family. The last week I spent back with the group, touring the west coast of Iceland.
I wouldn't change any of it for the world.
Don't tell the other group members, but I think my favorite part was living with my distant relatives. I truely grew up on that little dairy farm. It is the most beautiful place I've ever been. Where else can you stand on the top of a field full of cows and see a volcano to your left, a glacier in front, a valley full of sheep to your right, and the ocean with magnificent cliffs and rock formations behind you? It was incredible.
 
The first week while I was there, Katrin's friend's daughter JanaLind was also staying on the farm. She was about 10 years old and was truely an angel- an answer to my prayers. She didn't speak english so we couldn't communicate perfectly, but we became great friends despite the language barrier.
Her mother, Maria, also came to stay for a weekend. Maria is a wonderful, friendly, loving person. She taught me a great lesson which I will quote directly from my blog:
"On the wall in the living room here [in Atli and Katrin's house] is a story in Icelandic that Jana´s mom Maria translated for me today. It is a great lesson, so I found it in English for you:
One day, an old professor was invited to lecture on the topic of “Efficient Time Management” in front of a group of 15 executive managers representing the largest, most successful companies in America.
From under the table that stood between the professor and the listeners, the professor pulled out a big glass jar and gently placed it in front of him. Next, he pulled out from under the table a bag of stones, each the size of a tennis ball, and placed the stones one by one in the jar. He did so until there was no room to add another stone in the jar...
Lifting his gaze to the managers, the professor asked, “Is the jar full?” The managers replied, “Yes”. The professor paused for a moment, and replied, “Really?” Once again, he reached under the table and pulled out a bag full of pebbles.
Carefully, the professor poured the pebbles in and slightly rattled the jar, allowing the pebbles to slip through the larger stones, until they settled at the bottom. Again, the professor lifted his gaze to his audience and asked, “Is the jar full?” At this point, the managers began to understand his intentions...
One replied, “apparently not!” “Correct”, replied the old professor, now pulling out a bag of sand from under the table. Cautiously, the professor poured the sand into the jar. The sand filled up the spaces between the stones and the pebbles. Yet again, the professor asked, “Is the jar full?” Without hesitation, the entire group of students replied in unison, “NO!” “Correct”, replied the professor...
And as was expected by the students, the professor reached for the pitcher of water that was on the table, and poured water in the jar until it was absolutely full. The professor now lifted his gaze once again and asked, “What great truth can we surmise from this experiment?” With his thoughts on the lecture topic, one manager quickly replied, “We learn that as full as our schedules may appear, if we only increase our effort, it is always possible to add more meetings and tasks.” “No”, replied the professor.
“The great truth that we can conclude from this experiment is: If we don’t put all the larger stones in the jar first, we will never be able to fit all of them later.” The auditorium fell silent, as every manager processed the significance of the professor’s words in their entirety.
The old professor continued, “What are the large stones in your life? Health? Family? Friends? Your goals? Doing what you love? Fighting for a Cause? Taking time for yourself?”
“What we must remember is that it is most important to include the larger stones in our lives, because if we don’t do so, we are likely to miss out on life altogether. If we give priority to the smaller things in life (pebbles & sand), our lives will be filled up with less important things, leaving little or no time for the things in our lives that are most important to us. Because of this, never forget to ask yourself, ‘What are the Large Stones in your Life?’ And once you identify them, be sure to put them first in your ‘Jar of Life’”.
With a warm wave of his hand, the professor bid farewell to the managers, and slowly walked out of the room.
Today we filled our jar with many large stones. After milking the cows, we made rubarb pie and jam. It was delicious and it was fun to work together and get to know Maria a little better. She's a wonderful person.
We also sat and talked for a while. Maria was very curious about me being a Mormon (LDS) so we talked a little bit about it. Then later in the day when we sat down for a traditional Icelandic dinner (lamb soup), Maria asked me if I normally say grace before eating. I explained that we do pray before each meal and she asked me if I wanted to. I told her I could if she wanted me to and she said 'I would like that'. So I did. I said a prayer, just like I would at home.
Afterwards, Katrin and Maria had to fight back tears. They called my simple prayer "beautiful". It´s amazing how the simple things in life, especially those that I´m so used to, can really make a difference.
It was still crazy windy and rainy, but after dinner we decided to go for a walk. I felt like the kid from the Christmas Story putting on a million layers of clothes to not get wet. But I still got wet. We walked up around the fields and back again and though puddles and deep mud holes. It was so much fun! Then Egill (Atli and Katrin's 5 year old son) and I climbed to the top of a hill and the wind was so strong it could almost hold us up.

I felt like the bears in Brother Bear (at about 1:36 in this clip)
We got back to the house and changed into less drenched clothes. Then we got out my laptop again and connected it to the TV and sang along to songs like Let it Be and Hallelujah and some Icelandic songs while Atli played the guitar. That led us to putting in a CD with music by Atli´s father. Most of it sounded either swing or polka...ish- so, naturally, we got up and danced. Jana and I waltzed to a polka song and we laughed and laughed. Then we put in a home video from some festival that Atli and Katrin played in and laughed some more. It was a fantastic night just getting to know the family better and enjoying life. I think these were big stones.
Maria showed me a song from a movie and told me a quote from the movie that went something like 'Happiness is not happiness if not shared'. I think that describes our night. 
What are your big stones?
Maybe it´s time to remember God. Maybe it´s time to take a walk in a storm. Maybe it´s time to pull the coffee table from the middle of the room and dance.
Just remember to put the big stones in first"

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Butterfly

On June 19, 2009 a wonderful person left this world. His name was Josh Ward. He was 16 when, on the last day or school, he died in a car accident. His influence, however, has been on going and incredible.

I knew Josh for several years. His mom and my mom are to this day best friends. He was a simple, fun character. My fondest memory of Josh is when the middle sschool bus would drop us off and we would talk as we walked up the treacherous hill to our homes and then when it came time to part down different roads, he would get out his trumpet and blast his own welcome home melody.
When Josh passed away, I had moved away. I was watching the movie Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium when I got a text from my friend Laura informing me that he had gotten in a bad car accident. That movie will always mean more to me because of the timing and the wisdom of several quotes from that movie including:
"When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He's written "He dies." That's all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is "He dies." It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with "He dies." And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it's only natural to be sad, but not because of the words "He dies." but because of the life we saw prior to the words.
... I am not asking you to be happy that I must go. I'm only asking that you turn the page, continue reading... and let the next story begin. And if anyone asks what became of me, you relate my life in all its wonder, and end it with a simple and modest "He died." "
My mom and I drove from Utah to Washington to be with the Wards after the funeral had passed and the overwhelming support has begun to fade. They had us stay in Josh's room. His walls were littered with printer paper decorated with doodles and scribbled writting. One day, when I was home alone while my mom and his mom went out to lunch, I looked through the papers and turned some of them over. They were filled with incredibly deep quotes. I'm unsure how many of the quotes where his own thoughts or thoughts he borrowed from others, but this level of thought for a 16 year old boy was pretty astonishing.

One of my favorite quotes was written on a paper with a simple sketched doodle of butterfly with paths in the background. No colors, no extra fanfare, just a simple teenage boy style sketch and a scribbled quote (with even a minor mispelling) that said:
"Make every decision with thought
You don't know what tangent path
It'll throw you on
The butterfly (will) effect your world"
Every little choice makes a difference. You can allow the positive little things, the butterflies, change your world for the better. You can be that butterfly in someones life. A butterfly that will change the world. The butterfly may never know how much of a difference it makes, but that doesn't change the fact that it did make a difference.

Josh was that butterfly for thousands of people.

His family kept his facebook up after he died and years after the accident, people still post on his wall with sentiments of gratitude for the positive difference his example, his attiude, his friendship and even his silly laugh made in their lives. He certainly made a difference in mine. He died. But his spirit and influence didn't.

Monday, August 8, 2011

You Don't Need Eyes to See

I've had the opportunity to work with special needs children on several occasions. A good friend of mine (she's 13) has Downs Syndrome and is the cutest thing ever- she always loves brushing my hair. I've also just begun working regularly with an Autistic boy named Braxton. He is so full of light. He bursts out in random fits of laughter sometimes and his mom explained it by saying "those angels are always tell jokes at the most inopportune times"

My love for these wonderful children probably began when, in high school, I had the opportunity to work at a special needs camp called Bridge of Promise.

I was assigned to work with two little boys with unique special needs. One was named Andrew, who had a fun boy-typical personality with obsessions over cars and superheros. The other boy was named Tristen.

To this day, I am unsure of the specifics and extent of his disabilities, other than I knew he was blind. He was probably about 5 years old, but wise beyond his years. So much so that I felt like I could feel his wisdom without him saying a word.

At the camp, they had a blow up swimming pool that was filled with those little plastic balls you can find at most McDonald's. My partner Jordan and I took Tristen to play in the balls. We would run around the outside and he would through the plastic balls at us with incredible aim. His sense of sound of my feet rustling through the grass was amazing. It's as if the sound gave him sight.
He also took some time to just sit and feel the plastic. I think he could somehow imagine or sense the color of each ball despite his lack of eyesight. It was amazing how he sat and took in everything.

He truly knew how to gain the maximum amount from each moment. He studied the texture, he observed the shapes, he listened for the hollow echos. If only I could take in as much of my surrounding as Tristen did.

He also truly knew how to enjoy the simplicities of life. They had a real swimming pool as well, where the kids could swim with help. Tristen decided to just sit on the side and stick his feet in. Jordan got in and splashed Tristen's feet with the water. He thought it was the funniest thing in the world. Everytime the water touched Tristen, he would let out the most heartwarming laugh and scream "The waties gettin' me the waties gettin' me!!"

Here he was, Tristen, a boy who would forever be referred to as handicapped or impaired. He would never see the red of a rose or the green of the grass. And he would never see how beautiful his adorable little smile was. He lived life at a very different pace than the average person, but he lived life at a much more fuller pace then most. He looked at things which he could be otherwise be afraid of or incredibly frustrated with, with a smile and a laugh and would just take in the details.

I don't know how anyone could meet someone like Tristen and not be inspired to slow down just a little bit and be thankful for each moment and smile just a little more.

So next time you are tempted to complain about the rain that seems to only fall on you, notice the detail of every drop, be thankful for what it has to offer then just laugh to yourself and think with a smile "the waties gettin' me"

Monday, August 1, 2011

This is Nothing...Only Life is Something

In 2009 I traveled to Fiji with a program called AYS. We went to build septic tanks and bathrooms in two villages called Galoa and Dranikula. I learned a tremendous amount from the loving, wonderful people of those villages. I learned from the fatherly love of my "brother" Romeo (the man we built our septic tank for), I learned the joys of simplicity from the children such as little Lyndia and Lugie, I learned about faith and diligence from my new friend Lasaro...but the most profound lesson came from an older man named Toma.

These villages had very little. They cooked outside, most "rooms" in the homes were separated by curtains, and the fact that we were there to bring sanitation facilities to the village says a lot.

Our group was split up into smaller groups to work on several different outhouse-type facilities. I was placed in a group with a boy named Connor. As Connor and I, along with several men from the village, worked together digging ditches, carrying heavy wheelbarrows full of sand, building framework, and pouring cement; we had a wonderful time joking and and getting to know each other. I think the best way to get to know someone, is to serve with them.

Some of the group we worked with. On the left is my "brother" Kaju, bottom middle is Sparrow, on the right is my "brother" Romeo and in the middle is Toma

One afternoon, Connor had borrowed Toma's hammer to nail some boards together. The hammer must have been really weak or Connor was just incredibly strong, because he snapped the handle right off. Toma prided himself in the carpentry work he could do. He once showed us his make-shift "porch" on his home and you could see that it was something very important to him. I think Connor was afraid to tell Toma what had happened to his hammer, but he was honest and revealed the damage to Toma saying "I'm soooo so sorry, you can have mine. Or I'll get you a new one. I'm soo sorry!" How could he have broken one of the only possessions this humble villager had?

Toma smiled at Connor with that twinkle in his eye that shows when someone holds years of wisdom and said "This?" Referring to the hammer, "This is nothing. Life is something. Break a finger, it hurts. Because it is life. I will miss you when you leave. It is in the heart- a part of life. But this? This is nothing. Hammer is nothing. Only life is something."

My priorities, my opinion on possessions, and my whole perspective changed in that moment.

Shortly after that I would have my camera stolen. With all of my amazing photos of the ocean, of Indian fire-walking ceremonies, of the beautiful little village children... still in the camera. At first I was devastated. I'm a photographer on the side and I took some pride in a great number of the pictures I had captured on that nice little Cannon point-and-shoot. I did everything I could to get it back, but I think I knew it was a lost cause all along. I continued to stew over it though until, on a boat ride through the muggy river waters in Fiji, I realized something. I realized that I could get pictures from everyone else in my group... I still had a disposable camera left....I still wrote in my journal every night about the experiences I had each day... I would always have those memories... and really... this? This was nothing. Only life is something.