Monday, October 12, 2015

www.brentandmichelle.com

I am now married to the man of my dreams and living the dream. Our wedding and sealing was perfect. "Real life" together has already been great. At least for now, we will be using our wedding website as our blog which means I will rarely be posting to this blog.
For future updates- go to www.brentandmichelle.com


Monday, August 17, 2015

Perfect Circles


It's been a little over a week since my fiance's father passed away. I've been reflecting a little bit today on some of the many things I learned from him in the too-short time that I knew him here on earth.

I met him on New Years Eve (the same night that Brent and I became an official couple). That night, despite the toll that cancer had taken on his energy, I met a man who knew how to laugh and enjoy time with him family. I was very blessed with the opportunity to closely observe his subtle, yet magnificent example for the next 7 months.

While cancer was forcing his body to digress, I watched him progress unwaveringly in spirit and love. For his funeral, his wife wisely asked the man speaking to focus on the Plan of Salvation and specifically on the principle of progression.
I'll never forget a small and simple yet profound lesson he taught me on progression one evening.


I was over at their house one night, sitting with Brent's family in their living room. They asked me about my new job. I had just started a second job where I worked with and taught children ages 0-4 who come from difficult circumstances. They asked about details of my first day. I joked about how I was going to get really good at singing colors in Spanish, counting to 10, knowing the alphabet, and by the end of working there I'd probably even be able to draw a perfect circle. 

Brent's dad chimed in at that comment and added, "well, after that you could always learn to draw a perfect circle with your left hand". 

He was teasing, but that witty remark taught me a lot about his character. He was someone who was constantly searching for ways to improve and enhance life. And he was right. I had the ability to utilize my circumstances to gain so much more than I had originally thought of. Why settle for less when I could do greater things with such small means? I could have gone my whole life getting board of drawing circles, but instead I get to enjoy an occasional attempt at being ambidextrous. Simple, but it taught me a lot about living life to it's fullest. 

I am grateful for the example he set of finding ways to endure well: to progress and enjoy the journey now. I was blessed to watch as he found ways to tighten bonds with his family (including me), and to utilize every last moment he had to grow closer to God. The progress he made in his life truely attests to the fact that endured to the end.

Right now, my left handed circle looks a lot more like an abstract hexagon. I hope by the time I see him again after this life, I'll be able to draw a perfect circle for him with my right hand, with my left hand and maybe even with my toes too.





Thursday, July 30, 2015

Love. Always.



I've been missing from this blog for quite some time now. Why? I've been busy being swept of my feet by my best friend and fiance :)



I'm now engaged to the purest, most caring man I know. We've worked hard to get to this point and it's already so worth it. We spent a lot of time in prayer trying to figure out what was best. It was, however, when we took a step of faith into the dark and decided to move forward, that we were blessed to see how God had already been involved in the details of our relationship and had been confirming our choice as the best possible choice all along. Faith certainly precedes the miracle. I'm so grateful to be marrying the biggest miracle in my life this September. He's amazing and I love him. Always. 




To read more about our story, see more pictures and learn more about what we believe, go to www.brentandmichelle.com 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Only The Good

The other day I was reflecting on life and the atonement. Life is hard sometimes. It's confusing, it's scary. Sometimes (or oftentimes) we make mistakes. 
Yet, Christ atoned for us. He suffered for us, so that the bad can go away. 
Then something struck me: Christ suffered for the bad. He didn't atone for the good.
Let me try to explain what I mean.
When we make mistakes, when we need to give or receive forgiveness; Christ's atonement is there to wash that all away. He makes it possible to wipe all of that clean, as if it wasn't there. A lot of people refer to this as a "clean slate". But I don't think that quite captures it's true essence. A "clean slate" makes life sound so empty. In cleaning out the bad, Christ doesn't wipe away the good too. 

When a father yells at his son and shortly after feels extremely sorry for the way he treated his child, he can repent. As he repents, Christ takes away the burden of guilt and sorrow of that father's mistakes. Yet, in that process of repentance, Christ doesn't also take away the day that father went to his son's soccer games, or helped him with his homework, or read him a story, or taught him to pray. It's not an empty, clean slate. It's still full of good. Those don't get washed away. 
How very merciful is our God.


Because of the atonement, we can always focus on the good and look up. We can always look back with joy and hope. He takes away the bad and leaves only the good. 
When we look back at our lives through the eyes of the atonement, we won't need to remember the argument we had with our brother on the 4th of July, but we will remember the joy of being together as a family and looking up in amazement and wonder at the fireworks and the feeling we got as we watched our niece mesmerized by the magic of the night. 
So, look up!Through Christ, our lives can be only good.  
Love Always,
Michelle 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Changed Plans


A couple of weeks ago, we had a roommate reunion. My sophmore year at BYU was one of my favorites. I only knew one of my roommates when we began that year, but we certainly all became close friends by the end. We functioned very much like a family and I learned a lot from those lovely ladies. 
It's so interesting to think back to those sophmore single days. We can try to plan for our lives, but we're almost always so far off. 
Back then, two of my roommates were really set on going on missions (one especially). One of the other ones was in a relationship that she was fairly set on. My actual roommate and I were not in relationships nor did we plan on going on missions, we just planned to travel and serve our own way. 
Have you ever heard that "if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans?"
None of us did exactly what we planned to. 
The roommates who were dead-set on going on missions, decided it wasn't right for them and later got married to wonderful men. 
One of the roommates who was in a relationship, ended up marrying someone totally different and now has a beautiful little girl and another on the way. 
My other roommate and I, who were not even thinking about going on missions, ended up being the only ones to go. 


Yes, we have choices in our lives. Where each of our lives have gone from sophmore year to our reunion picnic several years later is a result of the choices we have made. But it's also a result of each of us following a uniquely designed God-given plan for our lives. It takes a lot of humility to replace our ideals and what we thought life would be like with that of what God is trying to tell us is best. But, when we do, it truly is best. 
It was so good to meet up again and see where we had all ended up. Everyone has hard things going on in life, but at the same time everyone is happy. God has taught us things that have been uniquely stretching and uniquely beautiful to each of us.

I'm so grateful (as I think each of us are) that the plan we had for ourselves our sophmore year was overruled by His whose plan is perfect. 

God tends to have bigger plans for us than we have for ourselves. 

Yesterday, my boyfriend and I went and did service that I actually used to do on a regular basis when I was living with that same group of girls several years ago. We went and sang hymns on Sunday at the hospital. That's always been a beautiful experience. This one was no different. One of the songs we sang has always been a favorite of mine: Lead Kindly Light



I love this song because I tend to want to see the whole picture all at once. I want God's game plan for my life in my hands; the blue print in full. But, he doesn't give me that. He gives me one step. One brick at a time. I have to use my agency to chose to take the steps and build with the brick he's given me, but he doesn't leave me directionless. One step enough for me. 

"God has a perfect plan for us. He never does it all at once, just step by step because he wants to teach us to walk by faith not by sight". 

Love Always,
Michelle 



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

We Shared A Zoo


When I was little, I collected 258 Stuffed Animals. Yes, It was excessive. I was certainly spoiled.


Then, one night we were in a car accident. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt. I got a minor black eye from hitting my face on the dashboard. When the fire-fighters and other emergency personnel came to check on us, they gave my brother and I stuffed animals.
What a great and simple service. I then decided my stuffed animal collection needed to be used for something better than my selfish hoarding.

First, I donated about half of my stuffed animal collection to my Uncle's fire-station, so that he and his team could help me pay it forward by giving to children who had been in scary situations like I had.


Then, over time, my stuffed animals have slowly made it around the world to be with children who could benefit from them much more than I could.

Some of my favorite teddy-bears made it to Fiji on my AYS (HEFY) service trip.

Then, a pile of my favorite stuffed animals tagged along to Mexico. My favorite pig-cow-dog (we never could figure out what it was really supposed to be) made it into the hands of our cute and helpful friend.

For my mission, I brought 2 stuffed animals, intending to find 2 deserving children to pass them along to. However, my first Christmas rolled around and we had been cooped up in the MTC for almost 3 months. It was a great experience, but also incredibly hard. Other missionaries in my group were getting a little stir-crazy and frustrated too. I wanted to help make Christmas feel like Christmas, but it wasn't like we could head over to the mall to purchase gifts to exchange. I had to work with what I had. I made or wrote gifts for each sister in my district. To one, I collected and made a book of quotes because she had a knack for gaining specific inspiration from motivating sentiments. To another, I wanted to give the gift of giving. I gave her one of my stuffed animals: a little monkey. I explained to her the purpose of me bringing the monkey, and told her she could keep it until she found someone just right to take care of him. She was so sweet and cried and thanked me. Many months later, towards the end of our missions, She told me she had found and taught a family with several young children living in a difficult situation. She had passed the monkey along to the youngest of the family. 


But, I still had one more. I had also brought a rabbit. I had gotten this rabbit on a road trip with my grandparents. My grandmother had gotten a larger version of the rabbit and I had received a smaller version. This one was special. My whole mission I had searched for the child deserving of this rabbit. Several times I almost gave him away. In my last transfer however, I still hadn't found that special child. Until one day, I realized who it was. 

We had been teaching a recent convert in the ward for quite some time. I actually had the opportunity to teach her prior to getting baptized too, while I was on splits. She was a young adult with a huge heart. She was so sweet and so sensitive to everyone around her. A beautiful woman. She was that girl you see and can just picture her as a primary teacher. She was single though and had no children. As we taught her more about the gospel in small and simple ways, I gained a deep appreciation for her innocence and simplicity. She held a special place in my heart. 

Right before I left to come home, we taught her one more time. This one was about the Holy Ghost. We focused on the comfort and peace it brings you. I taught it just as we would have taught it to a young child. Similar to many 8 year old's talks at their baptism about the holy ghost with a baby blanket or special comforting item, I used the stuffed bunny to talk about the Holy Ghost as a comforter. I then explained to her the purpose of me bringing the rabbit on my mission. I told her I knew she was going to bless the lives of many children as she continued to grow in her knowledge of the gospel and love those around her. I handed the rabbit to her and told her I wanted her to have it. With eyes filled with tears, she thanked me. It was so simple, but so meaningful. I couldn't have left the bunny in better hands. 

I didn't hear from her much after my mission, just an occasional update here and there. But just the other day, she sent me a message with a picture. A sweet and fitting addition to her Easter decorations. 


I'm so grateful for the change of heart I was given as a selfish plush-animal-hoarding child and the opportunities I've had all over the world to redistribute and share something as seemingly-meaningless as a stuffed animal. Stuffed animals are not important in life, but giving and receiving and loving are. I still have about 20-30 left, and I hope to continue sharing them as I go. A few I have passed along to my sweet niece and nephew. A few I plan to pass along to children of my own. If anyone has someone who they think would benefit from a simple stuffed animal, please let me know. 

Love Always,
Michelle 



“It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” 
― Mother Teresa

Monday, May 4, 2015

Foreboding Joy

Sziasztok,

First off, it's been over a year since I've been home from my mission. It's crazy to me that those moments, captured in the pictures below, were over a year ago. So much has happened since then that I never could have imagined...








If you haven't noticed, I've been relatively m.i.a. from this blog for the past several months. Life has been crazy and full of changes: new jobs, graduating from BYU, dating, new additions to the family... All of these things sound great right? And they are. But they have also all been insanely stressful. Why? I think a large part of it comes from a fault someone referred to today in church as "Foreboding Joy".

We are taught as children that God is a loving Heavenly Father who loves us and wants us to be happy. We learn it, and believe it. As children, we see the beauty of the world and find truth in that statement. Then life gets "real". Bad things happen. Your heart gets broken, work gets hard, decisions get confusing, motivation wanes, your weaknesses become apparent, and people you love make mistakes. You begin to lose faith in Joy.

Foreboding joy. Foreboding is a word that means "fearful apprehension" or "a feeling that something bad will happen". We refuse to feel joy because we're so worried that as soon as we do, it will be taken from us. "This happiness won't last, it never does, so why give my heart to it now?"

Yes, we are here on earth to be tried and tested. Life is "real". Life is hard. People are imperfect. BUT God is still our loving Heavenly Father who loves us and wants us to be happy now.

It actually reminds me of a good conversation my trainee and I had on our mission once. We had been knocking on doors for hours and hours in the pouring rain. Very few doors were being opened, and not a single person who did open the door allowed us in. We were getting discouraged. We even stopped expecting the door to open. We would still go through the motions because we were missionaries, we were there to preach the gospel, but we weren't enjoying it. And then we realized the fault in our low expectations. One door had little to no influence on whether or not the next door would open and accept us. Past let downs were taking away from the hope and joy of sharing the gospel with the next potential person. So we tried to change our mindset. We got to the last house after about 6 hours of walking up and down the street. We almost skipped it because our time was almost up, it was still pouring rain and not a single other door had let us in the whole day. Why would this one be different? But, we tried the door anyway, still with a tinge of doubt after a long day of nothing. We rang the csengo, and waited. Down came a young man. He invited us to come in and teach his family. They listened and invited us back again. Oh, how grateful we were that we didn't let all of the previous failures keep us from accepting that last door. In fact, all of the hardship that day helped us find traction for even greater joy in that one house.

Joy should not be hindered by fears based on past experiences. Foreboding joy is a choice we make.

I feel like I've fallen to this somewhat is the last several, crazy, busy months. A decent load of trials came my way and I sometimes allowed that to take away from the joy of the moment. A worry of the future undermined the precious joyous moments of the present.

And beyond that, I played the "I'll be happy when..." game. I'll feel happier when I'm graduated and have time to do what I want, I'll feel happier when this relationship feels more consistent. I'll feel happier when I get a better hang of my job... But even when those things did happen, I fell to the fault of  foreboding joy.

I was grateful for the reminder today that I should be happy now. God wants and expects me to receive the moments I'm given here in life with joy. That's why they're given. The trials in life are not meant to keep us from happiness in the now.

Unlike popular belief, trials and hardships and unexpected failures can actually bring us more joy as we move forward with life, if we will accept that gift from God.

"Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load, but bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness".- David A. Bednar


Allow the loads of past letdowns to give traction to your joy in the moment rather than distinguishing that joy with an ever-unsatisfying foreboding joy.

Love Always.
Michelle