Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thank You, Gracias, Merci, Salamat

As this Thanksgiving Day comes to a closer can't. Help but feel the need to sit down and take a moment to count my blessings. I try to always be aware of the numerous blessings and tender mercies that surround me, but sitting here with my family and a full tummy, they are impossible to ignore. My heart is full and I am sincerely overwhelmed by all the blessings I have received. Even saying that, I know there are blessings I don't even recognize.

1.First and foremost, I am grateful for the knowledge I have of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings I've received from the gospel and from living its teachings are incomprehensibly numerous. His light and love penetrate every aspect of my life.

2.I am eternally grateful for my family. They have taught me so much about who I am and who I want to become. I have learned so much about life, love, laughter, and happiness, from each of them. Not to mention how happy I get when I look at their faces.           

3. How about all the the beauties and wonders of nature that I have the blessing to witness and enjoy. I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it about a million more, the beauty of the earth is seriously evidence of Gods love. I love being outside, breathing the fresh air, and devouring the beauty of nature. How can you not be in awe of the world around us?
4. I'm so grateful for the school I attend and the education I am able to gain. I love the blend of temporal and spiritual education in my schooling. I get so much edification and enlightenment that is unlike what I would receive at other institutions. I love the program that I'm in, and I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. 

5.I am grateful for my pioneer heritage. This summer I participated in trek for a second time. It was amazing and probably among the hardest things I've done. I learned so much about strength, service, leadership, and perseverance. I am so grateful that I could experience a shred of the sacrifice that my ancestors endured for the gospel that I love.

6.I'm grateful for the leaders and educators who have blessed my life. They've taught me how to learn and grow, succeed and fail, serve and sacrifice, and observe then act. They've given me examples of charity, love, and selflessness.
7.I'm grateful that I got to live so close to my extended family for most of my life. I'm also grateful that now I live near my family that I used to see so infrequently. I'm especially grateful for the closeness I have to my grandparents. Their lives teach me so much, and the more time goes on, the more I cherish the time we have together. If you've seen me in my pug sweater and feel confused, just ask. It's seriously my favorite..
8.I'm grateful for my friends, both here and in Virginia. They are diverse, but they are all wonderful. I love that no matter how different we are, we have no need for judgement or contention. I'm so blessed by the people who surround me, and so blessed to having a loving God who put them there.
9. I'm so grateful for my parents. I'm grateful for a mom, who taught me how to be a mother. A mom who loves and listens, a mom who works and sacrifices for our family. I'm grateful for a father who taught me how men act, who works to provide for his family, and who magnifies his priesthood and callings.
10.I'm grateful for music. I'm grateful that it can bring the spirit and glorify God. I love how it can convey emotions that words can't describe. I love that it  can make us move and dance. I love that it can bring peace, joy, and laughter into our lives.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's my turn--

Over the past several months I've read any number of blog posts and counter blog posts on the issues of modesty, the priesthood, and other Mormon culture "hot topics." To be honest, there are very few that I agree with on either side of the issues. So here's the deal, I'm going to put in my two cents, not to say why someone else is wrong, not to wonder how people have the views they do (because I honestly don't know), but to be clear for myself and anyone who read this what I believe and why.

I generally hesitate to do this because I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but in a recent conference address Dallin H Oaks discussed things we often put before God and one of those things was political correctness, so I am making a point not to be silent. My goal is not to offend, but to clearly and blatantly speak the feelings of my mind and my heard about these topics.

I believe in being modest…
Modesty is a concept I've been taught from a young age. My personal standards for modesty are laid out in For the Strength of Youth and in the BYU Honor Code. Personally, I have no feelings of need to debate the idea of modesty, the FSOY is abundantly clear about why we should be modest:

"Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love HimProphets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act."

I've read so many people say they are against  the culture modesty or modest dressing because it shows a lack of understanding of the beauty of the body. They say naked bodies are beautiful and Mormons just don't have an appreciation for them. I've heard phrases like, "My hemline doesn't define my self worth." Or the all too famous, "It's not my responsibility to dress modestly so that [men] can control their thoughts. They need to be accountable for those, not me." These are generally followed by some sort of declaration along the lines of "So don't judge me for dressing immodestly just be you don't have the understanding that I do."

Personally, I find all of these to be inadequate and flawed arguments and probably resulted from well meaning teachers who went about teaching modesty in the wrong way or from comments of well meaning members who don't always think about the implications of your comments, because if there's one thing we know it's that the members of the church are not perfect. The human body is beautiful. It's one of Heavenly Father's creation. You are never going to hear me argue against that. The fact that the body is beautiful doesn't change the fact that it is sacred. We don't post images of the ordinances that take place in the temple because they are sacred, why then it is okay for individuals to post nude images of their sacred vessel? I don't view nude images because  I don't want to view something God gave them sacred to them, similar to the idea that I likely wouldn't view their patriarchal blessing because it is sacred. 

The declaration of self worth is also not a reason for immodest dress. Saying my modesty is not defined by my hemline is still supporting the idea that there is in fact a correlation between individual worth and modesty, which is the flawed the idea that your worth is in fact controlled by you hemline is trying to expose. You wouldn't say that wearing a shorter hemline is evidence that you DO know your worth would you? We know that our individual worth is infinite in the eyes of God modest or not, so it is not support or justification for immodest dress.

Lastly, the issue of a man's ability to control his thoughts has nothing to do with the purpose of modest dress. I am greatly opposed to that idea because I support the idea that men and women are accountable for their thoughts. However, this fact is not a counter reason for modesty.  The sin in immodest dress is not from the tempting of men, but in the fact that we are commanded to dress modestly. I'll talk about that more in a second… We are asked to support and sustain our priesthood holders. Modesty is already a commandment separate from this. The reality is, our priesthood holders are continually working at controlling their thoughts because of the way the world at large is, but if we can lessen that temptation in any way, why wouldn't we want to make it that much easier for them? This is not why I dress modestly, but it is an extra blessing that comes from living the standards of modest dress.

But most importantly, none of them can negate the fact that we have been counseled and instructed by prophets and apostles of our Heavenly Father to dress modestly. They don't address the fact that modesty is not about hiding my curves from other individuals, modesty is not about how others will perceive me or guarding myself from their judgements, and modesty is not for the purpose of helping the men in my life maintain clean and virtuous thoughts (that's just an added benefit that I'm more than happy to support).

the reality...
My modesty is a personal choice, I was not brainwashed or guilted into it. My modesty is a physical sign of my willingness to follow my Heavenly Father's instructions in every capacity that I can, because to be honest, while it may not always be the most convenient thing in the world wearing a skirt that goes to my knees is also not the hardest thing in the word and if Heavenly Father wants me to, I'll put in that extra effort every single time.  My modesty is one more way for me to allow the spirit more fully into my life because the spirit comes to me in greater abundance when I am making every effort to live the standards of the gospel. 

If you have views different than those I've expressed, I am not going to tell you that you're wrong, I'm not going to tell you or even think that you're a sinner or judge you for the clothes that you choose to wear or not wear, but I will boldly declare that my modesty has nothing to do with you or your perception of modesty, and everything to do with me, my choices, and how I choose to live my faith.

My modestly is for me. My modesty is for my Heavenly Father. That's all there is to it.

The other issue I see brought up a lot is the Ordain Women Movement. I am not really going to address this, except to say two things. One, for multiple reasons I am in strong opposition to this movement, and if you want to know why, I will be more than happy to tell you in private discussion because my goal is not to change anyone's mind. For now I am satisfied to say that I know the priesthood is the power of God and that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are in control of our church. Two, if you are in anyway unsure about your opinion of this movement, do not leave your study to reading over the arguments for or agaist the movement posted by others, be educated yes, but base your study on the doctrines of the gospel. Make it a matter or personal study and prayer (and if you don't know where to start, I recommend that you listen this past general conference for some of that personal study, it was amazing, and I know it addressed the issues and concerns of my heart concerning these issues).

What I really want to address in relation to this movement is how we treat other members of the church with views different than ours. We are continually taught that we should love others and this DOES extent to members of our own church. We don't need to understand the views of others outside the church to love them as a child of God, and we don't need to understand the views of others inside the church to love them as a child of God. This goes both ways. 

During general conference I saw tweets that would say things like, "Did you hear that comment by [insert apostles name]? Take that Ordain Women." Or "I hope the Ordain Women Movement heard that. Time for them to repent." That is seriously uncalled for and inappropriate. 

What's the best way for Satan to destroy the efforts of the church to spread the gospel, bless the lives of others, and change the world? How about creating discord and anger within the ranks of the members? This is something both sides need to consider. The commandment to love one another applies to all of us. Just like forgiveness is independent to the repentance of the offender, our love is not to be conditioned upon the actions of others. We must have charity. 

It's okay that we don't always understand everything about one another.
We simply must understand the fundamental truth that we are children of God.
No misunderstanding, blogpost, or movement can change that.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bucket of Success: Get a BoyCut and Rock It.

Hey all! Well, if you haven't been on here recently, you may have missed a very recent post about my bucket list goal, so check that out. Today, however, I am here to share a successful endeavor from one of the goals on that list, which in case you can't tell from this post title, was the "Get a Boy Cut and Rock It" goal.

To premise this, let me tell you a little bit about my hair. First, I am a blonde, with a lot of natural high and low lights. Second, my hair is fine, but I have a lot of it. Honestly, I have multiple heads worth of hair... And third, it grows super duper fast and super duper healthy. Seriously, I can go a year and a half without getting any split ends whatsoever if I'm not doing things that damage it frequently.

I do not say this to brag, (let's be honest, all I have nothing to do with the process), but simply to recognize, that I am extremely blessed with the hair that I have. I know it, and I recognize it. Because I know my hair is a blessing, I make a point to donate it to locks-of-love, when it gets long enough. I did this once in 5th grade, once my sophomore year, and most recently this last Wednesday. In the fifth grade, I barely had 10 inches, so I was left with a short bob. At this time I learned, that I really don't like short hair, at least not on myself. So the next time I donated, I had 16 inches to give, and my hair was shoulder length…

So I went from this..
 To this….
Which was (I thought) pretty drastic.

This time, I knew my hair was getting long, but I wanted it to grow out a little more, so I could have basically the same end length, but with just a little less of a donation. Then I heard about the BYU locks of love drive… and I thought, "That's a good cause, I guess I could deal with having shorter hair for a bit." Then I thought, forget that, "I'm getting a check off my bucket list!"

And thus, this is what we have.

The shortest my hair has been since I was about four years old. It actually looks a bit longer in this picture because of my bangs and the tilt 
If you told me even a week ago that this was going to happen, it's have said you were crazy...
but evidently, I am a little crazy...
So I got a boy cut, and there is has been and will continue to be, plenty of rocking it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

For I Know Heavenly Father Loves Me.

Please enjoy these songs as you read:

Heavenly Father loves you and is with you always.


Today is the final day of the BYU 10-Day Challenge, and it has been quite a ride. I've really enjoyed the time I've taken to care about myself in so many different ways. By nature, I'm pretty hard on myself, so conciously making an effort to give myself a break, is a wonderful challenge to take part in.

Over the past several weeks I've done a lot of study in my patriarchal blessing and a lot of soul searching about my relationship with Heavenly Father, and because of this my relationship with myself. I think it's safe to say, that if you took the way I treat myself and applied it to another person, I would consider it an abusive relationship, which is wrong on so many levels, but yet it true for many of us. I've been working on this for awhile now, and this concentrated effort has really aided me in gaining and noticing my progress. I know that I have more to do, but I'm grateful for the progress that I've managed to make, and I know my Father is surely helping me along the way.

So today I'm going to do two things. One is share a message from James E Faust in his talk entitled, "What It Means to be a Daughter of God" from the Oct 1999 General Conference it is the story of a young piano player:

"His mother, wishing to encourage him, “bought tickets for a performance of the great Polish pianist, Paderewski. The night of the concert arrived and the mother and son found their seats near the front of the concert hall. While the mother visited with friends, the boy slipped quietly away.
“Suddenly, it was time for the performance to begin and a single spotlight cut through the darkness of the concert hall to illuminate the grand piano on stage. Only then did the audience notice the little boy on the bench, innocently picking out ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’
“His mother gasped, but before she could move, Paderewski appeared on stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. He whispered to the boy, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And then, leaning over, the master reached down with his left hand and began filling in the bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.
“In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and time again, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And as we do, He augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. He is right there with all of us, telling us over and over, ‘Keep playing.’”7 [Excerpt taken from a talk given by Ann Woodland, Idaho Falls.]

Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ are certainly like the master piano player, making the most of our meager offerings. 

The other is tell you some of the reasons why my Heavenly Father loves me, which is not something I'm entirely comfortable doing, but I am going to do anyway. This is not written with the intent of being prideful of boastful.
  1. He loves that I'm trying. He knows how much I'm failing, but He loves how much I'm am trying.
  2. He loves that I can't get home from school without having at least a pocketful of trash. He loves that I will literally turn around and go back for litter that I noticed, but didn't pick up.
  3. He loves that I get so emotionally invested in movies that I cry during them all the time. 
  4. He loves that I will go to incredible lengths to make someone smile.
  5. He loves that I love my family so much. So much that it almost hurts me to see pictures of my siblings, and that I can't help but show them off to anyone who is willing to listen. It literally warms, melts, and hurts my heart to look at my siblings when I'm away from them.
     Like seriously, just look at their eyes! You can see how wonderful they are just looking on them.
     This is a picture that Bella drew. When I talked to her about it she said, "I drew Ben the smallest! hahahahahaha!" What an adorable and special kid. I miss her a lot. Every. Single. Day.
    Here is just a small indication of how great my family is...
  6. He loves that I will eat limes plain, but that I am not a huge fan of chocolate.
  7. He loves that I get proud of myself when I manage to eat something spicy. How terrified I am of spicy food, but how I still eat it. Like the mango habenero wings I ate last night...
  8. He loves the way I look at the world. How I recognize that all the beauties of the earth are evidences of His love… even if it's Hackberry Nipple Gall. 
    That song really is true. I know Heavenly Father loves me because of the beauty He has created and allows me to encounter on a daily basis. He is really just too kind, isn't He?
  9. He loves how much I love to be outside. The fact that I stare of of windows in class, or how I will sit on a freezing bench to study because I love it so much that it's worth it.
  10. He loves how when I'm not sure how I really feel or how to say what I really truly need to express, I start to think in lyrics and feel in song.
There are no pre-requisites for my Heavenly Father's love.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Before the Kick.

I have this bad habit of setting goals for myself, and either holding myself over or under accountable for my goals. I also have a habit of totally forgetting the goals that I set. So here's my attempt to unapologeticly (yes I made that work up) post my goals to the world. Some may seem amazing, some may seem stupid, but it's my list, so no one has to understand them but me. I like making lists and I like having them somewhere I can always see them for recall, so that's just that.

In other words, PRESENTING: My Bucket List.
This is preliminary, and it will grow.

Get a Hole in One
Have a Paint Fight
Color a Whole Coloring Book on a Sickday
Learn to Juggle
Own and drive a Motorcycle
Read all the Standard Works
Be Bilingual
Visit Every Continent [except Antarctica …i hate the cold]
Learn to make Pastries
Weigh 160 lbs or Less
Be able to Jump Serve
Be able to Dunk (Regulation Height Hoop)
Own an amazing Sweater Collection
Serve a Mission
Get a Boycut and Rock It
Own Neon Jeans and Rock Them
Understand Isaiah
Be a Published Author
Write a Song that Gets Played on the Radio
Be a Fluent Signer
Take an Award Winning Photo
Be a Paid Photographer
Set Foot in Every State
Go to Four Corners
Visit an Indian Reservation
Go to Australia
Visit a Real World Castle
Hike to the Top of a Mountain
Get my Splits
Make a Tie-Dye Dress
Read 100 books in One Year
Learn Massage Therapy Techniques
Have My Own Garden
Have a Chick Flick Kiss
Be able to do the Butterfly Stroke (Better)
Be on an Ultimate Frisbee Team
Befriend a Celebrity
Get 1,000 Followers on Twitter (@alyssajoybro)
Eat Only Food Made from Scratch for a Summer
Be Able to Kick a Field Goal
Be in a Movie
Run a Half Marathon
Know How to Wear Makeup
Hold a Monkey
Be Asked to a Formal Dance
Take an Ice Bath
Do a Polar Plunge
Mud Wrestle
Learn to Make Ice-Cream
Go Camping in the Mountains
Go to the Temple, Once a Week, for a Year
Adopt a Puppy
Touch a Hippo
Give $100 to Someone in Need

To be continued...

Maybe someday it will even be organized...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Recapturing Beauty: Day 3

Kay guys, so if you haven't heard BYU's Women's Services and Resources is doing a 10 Day challenge. The goal is to help us love  and accept our bodies. Today was day three and today's goal was to love your face, so the challenge was to not wear any makeup. I decided to also not pick at my face, because that's something I always have a problem with. I honestly didn't really have issues with this challenge at all.  Partly, that's because I don't usually wear much makeup to begin with, but also because I was determined to make peace with my face. When I looked at my face, I saw my blemishes, my pimples, my blackheads, and of course the huge dark bags under my eyes, but when I saw them, I knew that they weren't me, they were a part of me, but they weren't me.  
The picture on the top of this set, is a picture of me and my roommate, Andrea, before our other roommate, Susan's wedding. I was all sorts of dolled up, and I looked dang good. The picture on the bottom is of me today for the challenge. No makeup. No nothing. All my natural glory. 

And you know? I still look pretty dang good.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Tender Mercies.

I am continually amazed by our Heavenly Father's capacity to love. As Thanksgiving approaches and we reflect on the things we are most grateful for, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by how frequently and perfectly our Heavenly Father blesses us. His blessings are individual because He knows us so perfectly. Elder Bednar describes tender mercies much better than I am:

As I reflected on my tender mercies for my family home evening lesson tonight two experiences came to mind that illustrated to me how much my Heavenly Father loves me just the way Elder Bednar describes. These experiences are vastly different, but both remind me that I have a loving Father in Heaven who mindful of me in all times, and in all things, and in all places.
He is always looking for ways to bless me.

Last summer, I was driving home to pick up my sister, Callie, from Lexy's after an Oakton dance. It was around 1:30 in the morning when I was driving down a dark quiet residential road. As I drove up the road, I had the distinct thought that at this time of night a car would likely run the stop sign. At the idea of this, I moved my foot off the gas and over the break. Because my foot was there, when a car did come around the corner without stopping, I had enough time to stop before the car hit me. There is no way I had that thought on my own, it was a prompting of my Heavenly Father, and it is a tender mercy I am certainly grateful for.

Next. A Simpler, but No Less Significant Experience.
I love walking on campus and observing things that I've learned about in my classes on campus. I love seeing the beauty of the world that Heavenly Father created, and continually learning more about how it works. Today I was looking at a tree on the hill that leads to the cannon. While I was looking at the tree I stopped to pick up some trash under a bush. When I picked this up something caught my eye. It was a leaf with interesting bumps on it. I noticed another leaf with more bumps. I am always grateful for opportunities to learn, and I love to see God's creations in the Earth. It always makes me feel close to him and reminds me that His creations are evidences of His love for us as His children.

Sometimes tender mercies are large and obvious, other times the tender mercies of our Heavenly Father are things only we can understand. They are special to us because of who we are, and because he knows that they are tender mercies for us. We can choose to look at these things as consequences, or we can look at them as evidence of our Heavenly Father's love. When we choose to open our eyes to it, the evidence of our Heavenly Father's love is overwhelming. You are a child of God who loves you, and He is continually looking for ways to bless you.