Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dear Friends, [A Fond Farewell]

Well my friends, it's finally that time, I'm finally leaving to serve a mission for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! This evening I'll be set apart as a missionary. After that, I will be wholly focused on serving and teaching as a disciple of Jesus Christ. For 6 weeks, I will go to the Dominican Republic Missionary Training Center, to learn Spanish and how to teach more effectively. Then, I will travel to Puerto Rico where I will spend the remainder of the year and a half that I'll be serving. I'm so grateful for the gospel in my life and I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to serve. I would not be the person I am today, were it not for the influence of the gospel in my life and I look forward to sharing the light and truth that I've enjoyed with those who do not have it. To learn more about my beliefs visit mormon.org or write me an email or letter! My family has access to my address and e-mail, so get in contact with them for more information if you're interested, otherwise I hope that you will enjoy the updates that will be sent from me and posted here!

Before I leave I want to bear witness of the truthfulness of the gospel. I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father, that He is aware of us and that He has a plan for us. He does not want us to be alone or unaided on this earthly journey, so He has provided a way and a path to return to Him. The truth has been restored to the earth, and we can be partakers of it. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that he lived and died to provide an example and a path for us to return to live with God again. I know that as we seek to know truth; we will not be unaided. I know that God answers prayers because He has answered mine. He will guide and direct you as you sincerely seek and act on His word. Asking and seeking has changed my life and I have seen the blessings of obedience to God's commandments. I encourage each person who reads this to pray to God, ask if He's there, ask if He's aware of you, and ask what He wants from you. He WILL direct you and answer you. Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Chist, Amen.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The thing that you deserve to know.

If nothing else, scroll to the bottom of this page and watch the video.

It seems that over and over again, I am reminded of how easily I take things in my life for granted. As is the nature of taking something for granted, I never realize that I am doing so, but am grateful when this folly is pointed out to me. This weekend was no exception. My reminder came in the form of a friend telling a story. He spoke about a member of his congregation that was struggling. He said that after praying for the individual, their leader gave my friend specific instructions. He said, "Go to him and say, 'The Lord loves you.'" Surprised at the simplicity of the task, my friend went forward to deliver the message. Upon doing so, the man broke down. Through his tears the man admitted, "I never knew that."

I don't know why I found this story so shocking. Of course I know there are people in the world who don't know this simple truth, I am friends with many in the same position. However, each time I remember this reality, my heart breaks a little. My knowledge of a loving Heavenly Father is something I hold dear. It's a simple, yet profound truth, and too often I forget to share the blessing of this knowledge with those around me. This is an oversight I hope to mend. Whether it be through my actions or my words, I want those around me to feel the love that Heavenly Father has for them.

God, our Heavenly Father, loves you. God, our Heavenly Father, loves everyone, but He also loves you. He doesn't just love you in some blanket universal fashion, the way He loves everyone. His love for you is infinite, intimate, and individualized. It is far too easy for us to either forget this or simply deny it. It seems impossible that He could really know everything about us and still love us.

Recently I've been pondering on what it is about me that Heavenly Father loves. Sometimes it's easy to get overwhelmed and feel like because we are imperfect, we are unloveable. Other times it is easy to look at others and see why they are lovable and why we don't compare. Sometimes we simply cannot comprehend this kind of love because it is the type of love that only a perfect being can give. I thought of some of the most goofy things about myself and realized that because God loves me, He loves even these simple little silly things. I took some of those things and compiled them into a list of reasons why Heavenly Father loves me, as an individual.

Here's my list. What's on yours?

In a world that sometimes seems to be filled with people, it is easy to feel lonely and overwhelmed. It is so easy to feel unloved, despite the infinite love we have access to when we open our hearts to the love of God. He really sincerely wants to love you. I know that as you let Him, you can feel His love because I have felt it in my life.

Oh, and if you aren't sure what would be on your list. Ask Him.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Can't We All Just Get Along?

I love information. I love reading. I love using the internet as a source of gaining understanding, finding articles, blogposts, and more than address various topics and view points. Although I do all this to gain greater understanding of what other people think:

I do not love reading comment sections.

To be honest, I often find them appalling. I feel shocked at the way people talk to one another over and over again. Maybe the comments I've read would be shocking to you too, or maybe you'd here them and think, "that doesn't surprise me at all," but isn't that even worse?

I feel like recently I can't casually scroll through an article without reading any array of insults assuming anything the commenter wants about the lives or others, generally filled with explicit, rude, inappropriate language. Or how about the ever so popular, "Go kill yourself." Or today one that said, "[Insert previous poster's name here] You're dad got a brain tumor because you are such a..." I won't even finish that one.

Though I find the comments disgusting, I really try not to judge the people. We all have passions and emotions that are different from one another, and we're all fairly uneducated on how to use the internet. But somehow I just can't shake how wrong it is when someone comments on a post about an anti-bullying campaign saying they disagree with the methods and another person tells them (and this is not verbatim) "not supporting this makes you an awful person, go kill yourself."

Telling someone to go kill themselves under the guise of supporting an anti-bullying campaign seems a little bit hypocritical to me.

Let me give a bottom line here. Talking down to someone is not okay. Telling someone to kill themselves is never okay. It is sick to me that this can be said so casually and is almost commonplace over online forums.

"This isn't going to stop, so get off the internet Alyssa."
The fact that it exists is wrong, whether I read it or not.

Does being online and having different opinions really dehumanize us enough to one another that we as a society think it is okay to say whatever we want?

I refuse to accept this.

I wonder how the original poster feels when they read those comments. Do they just shake their head and think, "You think you follow me, but you don't understand?"

We could say this is all online, but I can see an evident real world parallel, it's just easier to be loud about it from behind a screen.

The real issue here is pride. I used the word dehumanizing earlier, and I'll say it again. We have a tendency to dehumanize one another on a regular basis. Anytime we look down on someone else for how they act, what they think, what they look live, or how they live, and we put ourselves above them, we are unconsciously thinking of them as less than what they are as human beings.

The most basic definition I can think of for a human being is near and dear to my heart. If you are a human being, you are a child of God. There are a plethora of problems in society caused by individuals not knowing this about themselves, but even more problems as those who do know seem to so easily forget this fact about others. 

We are children of God, royalty in our divine identity and we all deserve to be treated as such.

Didn't Christ say, "Let he that is perfect cast the first stone?"
No one could, so why do we think we are justified in doing so?
What's more significant is that Christ IS perfect, yet did not cast a stone.

Can I make a bold statement and say that IF a perfect man had cast a stone at that women, he would not longer be perfect?

A perfect individual seeks understanding and to serve others, not to cast judgement (or stones).

There are times when all of us are in this circumstance. Sometimes  we are in the place of the women and sometimes as the individuals with stone in hand ready to throw. When we are ready to cast stones do we think of the mercy we wish others would offer to us when we make mistakes?

I'm not saying that you have to life everyone or life what they stand for, but as Christians we state that we model our lives after Christ, but yet sometimes Christians are the most judgmental and prideful people I know (members of my church included). How often does Christ look at us and think like that original poster and think, "You say you follow me, but you just don't get it."

How can we define ourselves as followers of Christ, yet not live His most basic doctrines, to love one another? Please note that He didn't say, "Love one another as long as they are kind, you agree with everything they say, and they are easy to get along with."

Regardless of your religious beliefs, there is more that we can do. First of all, accept that everyone has the right to an opinion, even if you don't agree with it. Even if it goes against every moral and fiber of your being they have the right to an opinion. They even have the right to voice their opinion, and you do it! However, neither of you have the right to force or enforce your opinion on others. Neither of you have the right to cast stones (even mentally) at a person just because they don't share your view, your lifestyle, your standards, or your ideals.

A few years ago I adopted a simple idea that has really changed how I view others..

Judge Less. Help More.

What if we all adopted this standard? What would the world be like? I'll be honest, the world will probably never know, but I'll let you in on a secret. You can. You can try a little harder to be a little better, and your world can change. Those around you will see it, and you can help them change their world too.

I am not perfect. I am sincerely hoping that this post doest come off as self righteous, because I know that I am far from being perfect. However, I am striving. Striving to give others the benefit of the doubt, to love them as human beings even if I don't like them as a human being, and to serve those I don't understand.

I'm going to keep trying, and I'm sure there are millions worldwide doing the same. Join us.
Change your world.

Tender Mercy Tuesdays: Reminders in the Chaos

Sidenote: This post is way late and I'm sorry. I wrote it and then didn't have the final thoughts that  wanted to have present. Pinky swear that this coming Tuesday will be on time. (:

This past week has been crazy, full, and all around busy. However, though it all I've felt very little stress and discouragement, which is an incredible blessing because those are usually my greatest downfalls. Instead I felt a great ability to discern what things were most important and rely on the spirit and those around me to do those things which were most important and fruitful in my responsibilities.

Interestingly enough, by making my church callings and commitments a priority and working other things and assignments around them, I was able to get all the things done that I needed to. I am confident that this is not a coincidence. The increase in spirit kept me going throughout the whole week and kept all the things I had going on in perspective.

This week I also had the opportunity to help a few friends as they faced various stresses and trials. Each time I talked to them I felt prompted in the things that I should say and do to most help them in their circumstances. This is great evidence to me that Heavenly Father loves them as individuals and that He is aware of their trials and the things in their heart. This in turn was a tender mercy to me as it reminded me of the love that Heavenly Father has for me and the opportunity that we have to be of service and aid to others.

In conclusion I'd like to share something that I wrote in my Book of Mormon Notebook as I was pondering today during scripture learning…

"Don't place a limit on the amount of love that God has for you or a limit on the love He shows for you. The scriptures say that every good thing comes from God. Therefore, we can assume that as every good thing in our life comes from God it is evident of the eternal love He has for us. Don't overlook the littlest things, thinking them to be coincidence or of no consequence. He is 'in the details of our lives.'"

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tender Mercy Tuesday

Sometimes I am so amazed by all the tender mercies that the Lord provides to each of us. Often we don't even recognize them, or we may not recognize them for some time after they happen. Recently, I've been trying to stay more aware of the tender mercies that surround me. (If you don't know what a tender mercy is watch the video posted on this blogpost). I think a great way for all of us to stay aware of our tender mercies is hearing the tender mercies of others or sharing our own with others, so I thought I'd share a few of my own tender mercies from this past week.

Last Thursday was a rough day for me. I got some news that was hard to digest, and my knee jerk reaction (which I've been working on curbing) was to ignore the problem until I had time to deal with it. I decided to put in my iPod, blast some dubstep, and go in to work, so I could just deal with everything when I got home. As I put the headphones in my ears I had an impression that I wouldn't be able to feel the spirit if I was listening to loud music and that in that moment what I needed must was to be able to recieve comfort from the spirit. This made me pause. Instead of dubstep, I filled my ears with instrumental versions of hymns. I offered a simple prayer. I recognized the knowledge I have that Heavenly Father is in control, but also recognized that though I had that knowledge, in that moment, I needed some more, I needed help through comfort and peace. So thinking of Elder Holland's talk I prayed, "Father, I believe, help though my unbelief." An overwhelming and tangible feeling of peace entered my heart. I began to read the scriptures, specifically the words that Christ speaks about peace in the New Testament. My heart was lifted up by his words and his love. I began to see a new picture of Christ in my minds eye as he says in John 14, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." I imagined Christ not simply informing or testifying, "I have the power for you to be healed spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically," but pleading saying, "Please. I've suffered what you will suffer. I know the pains and struggles that you will endure. Please. Let me help you." I could imagine the pain in his eyes as he sees so many walking without his light and aid, but mostly I felt a knowledge and assurance that he really wants to help us through our trials, with all his heart and all his being. 

On Sunday, it seemed like everyone in my ward was testifying of Christ and reminding me of the greater understanding of Christ's love that I had gained over the past week. In relief society, the lesson was wonderful as we discussed dealing with trials and being fully converted as we are anchored on our Savior. Due to a number of factors, I couldn't help but bawl as I listened to the words and comments that were spoken. At the end of the lesson, as my relief society president testified of the reality of the Savior and his atonement, Where Can I Turn For Peace was sung by the ward having sacrament meeting in the room adjacent to ours. The timing could not have been more perfect if we were on a movie. It was such a simple reminder that God is aware of me, that he hears me in my struggles, and that he wants to remind me on whom to rely. At the end of the meeting I bore my testimony and I'll say what I said in that moment many more times in my life. I simply stated that my week had been stressful and said that the thing more overwhelming than the trails I've faced is the overwhelming evidence that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me. I know that this is true, not just for some of our trials, but for always, we just need to look and the evidence of His love is overwhelming.

On Tuesday, I got to walk with two guys from my ward to campus, which was really nice. One tender mercy from that is that I somehow never fell despite the ground being covered in ice and the fact that both of those boys are over 6 ft and walk significantly faster than I do. When I got to class (with frozen hair), it was cancelled, which I immediately knew was a tender mercy in disguise because I had a lot of homework that this allowed me to get ahead on! It was fantastic. 

I know that I'm posting this on Wednesday, but you'll have to forgive me. I had the opportunity to go help a friend while I was writing this, which was much more important to me than the timing of my blogpost. Not to mention it was another tender mercy because I really needed an opportunity to serve someone. 

What tender mercies have you been blessed with this week?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome to the New Year.

Well hey there internet! Welcome to 2014! Here in the house of Brown things are going well. Well, they're going well for me because today mom made pumpkin squares which I craved all fall at school. Everyone else around here is feeling pretty crumby, and by crumby I mean pukey. Gross. Side note: Dad's favorite joke concerning this is that it brings new meaning to the phrase, "Out with the old."

Anyway, I do have a few goals that I have decided to set, for this new year, and some, for the rest of my life. I know several people who are opposed to this and follow the, "My resolution is to not set any resolutions" route. I am not an anti-resolutionist because I set goals all the time, so why not set some for a substantial measurable time period? I love setting goals and I see no reason why the fact that we should set goals all year long should dismiss setting aside some time to do this especially. This is similar to my feelings on expressing love at Valentine's Day or giving Thanks on Thanksgiving. Yes, I do strive to do these things all year round, no I don't feel like there's anything wrong with making a focused effort one day of the year, especially to make sure I have done so more completely.

You didn't ask for my opinions on people who are anti-holiday-ists, but you just got them, so there. (;

Anyway, my resolutions (which I set about a week ago in preparation for the new year) are pretty great (I think). I have plans developed to make them practical, and even if I fail or my priorities change, I am excited to see how much I will improve this year.

oh and side note: my goal for this year first and foremost is to go on a mission. During that time some of these goals will not be do-able and some will be even easier when I am gone, but they are all set with the intent of making myself the best person that I can be in the meantime.

Be Healthier
 (Eat Better)
Be More Artistic
Get More Sleep
Develop Talents
Magnify Callings
Be an A-student
Prepare to Serve a Mission
Grow in Love and Compassion
Strengthen Testimony of the Gospel
Keep a Journal
Increase Organization

These are all pretty general, but each has 3 specific focuses that I've outlined for myself for more quantifiable, but reasonable goal setting.

Be Healthier:
-Be able to run 10 miles without a break.
-Be more capable or making and enjoying healthy budget friendly cuisine.
-Have a healthy, consistent, keep-able system

Get More Sleep
Weeknights: Bed by 11 without purpose
Friday: No Defined Rule
Saturdays: Bed by Midnight
Sundays: Bed by 11 no exception

Develop Talents:
Write 1 Song/Month
Practice Piano again (1 Hymn/Month)
Record 1 Song a Month (Original or other)
Sketch Journal (at least 1/wk)
More Consistent Photography
(Edit & Post photos every 3 weeks)
Cook one new recipe at least every 2 weeks
Keep a daily Journal
Write on Blog Once/Week
Write something inventive each week:
Challenge: Share Work with others! 

Magnify Callings: These I won't really post, but I can tell you my callings!
RS Chorister
HE Group Leader
Visiting Teacher

Be an A-Student
Complete Homework in Advance
Take Better Notes:

Prepare to Serve a Mission
Study Preach my Gospel (Ponder on best preparation for call)
Audit Mission Prep Classes
Take Notes in Church Meetings

Grow in Love and Compassion
Do a small act of service each day
Express Gratitude to Others more openly
Learn to Love myself more

Strengthen Testimony of the Gospel
Improve Personal Study
Say Morning and Evening Prayers
Pay Tithing By the Paycheck

Keep a Journal
Write Daily
Include Feeling as well as function
Record things I am sincerely grateful for each day
**No page minimum or limit**

Increase Organization
Make Daily and Weekly Schedules (Keep Planner)
Clean Room/Do Laundry: once a week
Organize Room to be more user friendly/effective

So there you have it! We'll see how I do! Some are definitely higher priorities than others, but overall, I know just having these goals in mind will help me to become more like the person that I want to be.

Cheers to your new year! :D