If an old man in a grey robe comes up to you and invites you to go on an adventure with him tell him to go home. He’s drunk. Just sayin’ is all. If it’s all right with you I’ll be leaving the adventuring up to the other hobbits from now on. Frodo Baggins has left the building. The past two years have definitely been an adventure.
It was late July, and we had just said goodbye to a missionary who was a good family friend of ours. He was leaving on his mission, and entering the MTC that day. The grey wizard came in the form of a phone call my dad got from a buddy he had in Tucson, Arizona. He was offering my dad a job opportunity. It was my dad’s dream job, and his current job allowed him to work remotely so we could live wherever we wanted. It was made clear through a heck of a lot of prayer and study that this was what God wanted us to do, and that He wanted our focus to be on missionary work. So we left our home in Nevada, a small town that we absolutely adored and cherished filled with amazing people, and moved over a weekend. We didn’t take much with us, and planned on buying furniture in AZ.
We arrived in Arizona August first 2013. Near the end of the August, I received my YW medallion and shortly after that I knelt at my bed and said a prayer that would change everything. I prayed that God would give me mountains to climb, that he would give me trials so that I could grow and do his work. I had read about it in a conference talk and thought it would be a good idea.
A few days after my prayer I turned sixteen. That day we had dinner with the missionaries at one of my favorite restaurants. The conference talk I had been so inspired by somehow was mentioned, and one of the missionaries said “Yeah, I really appreciate how he said he would NOT recommend praying for mountains to climb.” Yeah, I really need to improve my reading comprehension. The words that ran through my mind in that moment were along the lines of “Oops, I’m in trouble.” Let me tell you, if I didn’t have a testimony of God answering our prayers before, I do now. The events that happened over the next two years ranged from painful and miraculous, to just plain painful. Very shortly after that the job opportunity fell through, and missionary work was all we had left as our purpose there. I became overwhelmingly homesick in fact all of us became homesick, so we put our whole selves into the work. We began having investigators over for dinner and for family home evening. My mother and I took turns going on splits with the sister missionaries in the middle of the week and we would finish off the week with a family instituted Super Service Saturday. The missionaries helped us find service opportunities for the weekends and when we didn’t have anything to do we would help clean the chapel even when it wasn’t our ward’s turn to clean. We also spent a lot of time helping my mother serve those she visit taught, and my father with his home teaching.
November 2013-December 2013
Shortly after YW in Excellence, my calling as Laurel Class Secretary led me to be in charge of a combined mutual activity when the original activity planned had been cancelled. I had three days to put the entire thing together but I caught the flu the day before, and I was very sick the day of the event. I prayed so hard, but I only got worse. The night of the event I couldn’t move my body I hurt so badly, and I was shaking uncontrollably head to foot.
Still, I took what pain medication I could find, knowing it was unlikely to help, and got in the car with my supplies. For the activity, I would be teaching the youth how to mark their scriptures by using Books of Mormon the missionaries had given us. In celebration of Christmas I had done some research and found verses throughout the Book of Mormon that when put together told the story of Christ’s birth. I had arranged with the missionaries that we would give the Books of Mormon back to them, and they would distribute them throughout the area of Tucson, Arizona we were in. Once I started speaking and directing everyone, immediately and very suddenly my illness went away. The activity was a huge success. One of the YM Adult leaders was quite the heckler, but the missionaries, youth, and parents, loved it. They said they had never seen anything like it. It was so nice to see the missionaries there, and we ended up with about 56 marked and ready BOM’s with the youth’s testimony inside.
For Thanksgiving we had the opportunity to have Thanksgiving dinner with a family we love dearly, and that I’ve known since birth. Even as a writer, and an endless chatterbox, it’s hard for me to put into words how loved I felt sharing my favorite holiday (next to the 4th of July) with them. They truly are family to me, and I love and admire each one of them. I had had a really hard two weeks, and was feeling really dejected. Being able to feel cared for and loved was so inexpressibly crucial in helping me to carry on in faith.
Also, during this time I was massively enjoying going on splits with the missionaries. I loved getting to know the amazing investigators we had in our area, and I loved getting the opportunity to bear my testimony, answer questions, and even teach part of the lessons. I was also baby sitting for three sweet families in the neighborhood on a regular basis, and the relationships I was blessed to create with them brought me so much joy.
December twelfth was the ward Christmas party, and Jackson and I volunteered as servers for the dinner. It was a really great opportunity to be able to go around and see everyone in the ward whom I had spent the last few months getting to know and care about. Plus also, the food was really great.
As the night went on, I grew homesick again. December twelfth, just the year before, was a ward Christmas party in Alamo that my dance students performed at. As the dances played in my mind, I could see their sweet faces. Whenever they performed they all lit up the room. They are amazing little dancers, and have amazing spirits. I’m so grateful they shared their light with me, and that night I wished I could be with them again.
In January I was set up on a blind double date with a friend of mine. She had just turned sixteen and was so excited. Our group went to the zoo, and after that went to get pizza…and somehow it got brought up in conversation that I was saving my first kiss for my wedding day. Well, first kiss besides the time I was kissed by the very handsome 7 y/o son of my dad’s best friend while on vacation with them in Mexico. To the itty bitty seven year old I was, that tiny peck was pretty perfect. Perhaps that’s the real reason I haven’t kissed anyone since…ha-ha. 😛
Anywho, the boys in the group (all three of them) became outraged, and tried to convince me how morally wrong I was for wanting to save my first kiss. They claimed, that as part of the dating principles in the gospel, it was important to kiss a lot of people to know what kind of person you like, and to make sure the “feelings” *wink wink* are there. According to them, I was going against the teachings of General Authorities, in my quest to seek spiritual and emotional commitment before smacking lips. It’s amazing how our brains can spin the gospel into whatever we want it to mean. I personally believe that the love talked about-between a man and a woman-by General Authorities is pure, powerful, and that the physical is unnecessary until a spiritual friendship and commitment has developed. I felt very small, but used the opportunity to express that my choice wasn’t something I thought everyone should do, but what I felt was right for me. I wanted to save my first kiss until I had an eternal commitment from a man I loved in order to protect my heart. God must have been with me or something, because my normal reaction would have been something along the lines of… “Really are you kidding me? ‘Cause this would EVER affect you?” Instead I calmly defended my beliefs and to this day I don’t know how I managed it. Let’s just say that the drive home was very awkward. My dad had his gun prominently displayed on his hip when we got to my house. I was surprisingly grateful for that, I wouldn’t have minded if he had taken it out and cleaned it either.
It was mid morning and my mom, my brother, and I had taken my baby brother Jericho (4) and baby sister Gaby (2) to the library. When we got there, it was closed for another hour. A few minutes later, a woman showed up with her child who was Jericho’s age. They both hit it off, and began playing together. We started up a conversation with his mom, and found out that she had a son who was close to my age, and another son close to Jackson’s age. Somehow our conversation got into religious beliefs and we found that even though we were of different religions we had a lot in common. We had them over a few times, and found out that she was recently divorced. She was struggling with finding understanding regarding God’s views on family and on Divorce. She felt like the divorce was a sin, and that remarrying would be an even worse sin. She was heartbroken about it because she had started relationship with someone new and she was worried she wouldn’t be able to remarry. We found that this was a wonderful opportunity to share with her The Family a Proclamation to the World, and other teachings on family. We were blessed to watch her journey as she studied these teachings and watch them bless her family. She has gotten married this year (2015), and we are all so happy for her and her family. There were so many times when we were feeling dejected, and had had a hard couple of days, and they would share with us their life, time, wisdom,and food.ha-ha.
We were striving to be a blessing in their life, and we found that in they end, they were even more of a blessing to us. I went on my first date (that wasn’t a blind date) with her son who had already gone on three mission trips with his church. We had a lot to talk about, I admired his dedication to scouting and his dedication to his religion. I almost got him to go to church with me before we moved…almost. That was the closest anyone in our family got to seeing any results from our work there.
In the mean time, my father was called to be in the Bishopric. I felt a lot of pressure to set an example and to reach out to people in the ward and in the area. Although, so many times we found that as we were trying to reach out, so many people that weren’t of our faith reached out to bless us. Every day, after dropping Jax and I off at seminary, my mom would take the kids to the park. Every day there would be a mother and her son there as well, and my siblings would play with him. My mom and his mom became friends as the days passed, and would talk about their religions and common beliefs. One day my mom was really struggling with feelings of homesickness, and some of the trials we had been experiencing. The woman asked her, if she could pray for her. She put her arm around my mom, and said the most beautiful and heartfelt prayer my mom had ever heard, right there in the park. We never saw them again, but they were a huge blessing in our life, more than they could ever know. In the next few weeks, we witnessed that prayer, be answered repeatedly in our lives.
In February I was asked by a young women’s leader in Logan Utah to write an ebook for leaders about the Christ centered individual worth program I had developed. I was super excited, and so wrote it as fast as I could and posted it online (for more info on that click here). My goal, was to model the ebook after the Come Follow Me program, where it gave the leaders leeway to gain inspiration for their individual group of girls, and I’m really happy about how I turned out. I was also asked by the same leader to travel to Utah and speak to a stake of young women about it, and I was beyond thrilled. A week or two later it fell through, apparently the YW presidency had had a bad experience with a speaker before. I was so disappointed.
Later that month, or perhaps early March, we attended the Gilbert Temple open house. It was gorgeous! I loved going through the sealing rooms. My dad made sure that as we passed through, we took a moment to stop and look into the mirrors.
It was amazing to see the image go on and on forever. Walking through the temple it was strongly reaffirmed to me how important marriage and the family is, and that I needed to make finding an eternal companion a goal and priority in life. My favorite room was the celestial room. The beautiful chandeliers, and stained glass, the intricate white carpet, and the overall feeling there just made me feel like it was home.
In March we got a call about a job opportunity for my mom and I at a private school in Utah. We viewed it as sort of a transfer. We went to Utah and attended General Conference at the conference center, and met with the people who ran the school. They offered me a job as a full time teacher, and my mom a job in charge of all extracurricular and workshops. My duties were to teach Book of Mormon, Language Arts/History, Constitution, and math. My class ranged in ages from 6-11 years old. We got the job, and we went home and moved all of our possessions, including all our furniture, in four and a half days.
The last night we were there, we arranged for a hotel a short while away. However, when we got to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning they didn’t have record of our reservations and had had no availability left. So we drove on through the morning. We continued to arrange for hotel rooms but there continued to be obstacles that would keep us from arriving at them and being able to rest. By this time, we had been driving all night. Eventually we had to pull off to the side of the road, and sleep for about an hour or two, and then continue straight on to Utah. For some reason it was critical we got there that day. We stayed with a member friend who’s married to a nonmember for a few weeks while we closed on a house a few doors down. I taught a week at the school, and it was my dream job. I got rave reviews from the parents and my boss…and then the job fell through. I wasn’t even paid for that first week.
So then, we were wondering what on earth we were supposed to do once more. Even after moving into our house, we continued to have dinner with these friends and the missionaries every Wednesday. The missionaries recruited us to do online missionary work, and taught our family how. Eventually this nonmember friend was baptized. We were so blessed to be able to have watched his journey.
I graduated High School and seminary early so my bishop and YW president approached me and recommended I be moved into Relief Society even though I was only sixteen. I loved it in Relief Society! I also started going to institute and I really enjoyed getting to spend an hour and a half going in depth into the scriptures in an environment that felt comfortable to me. Plus…there’s treats.
In August I was called to be a nursery leader. I was so excited! I absolutely ADORED my nursery kids! They were super sweet, and it was amazing getting to be a leader of my baby sister’s nursery class (2 year olds). While I had the option as part of my calling to teach, the other leader I was with really enjoyed that part so I let her take over. Instead I focused on really enjoying the children and trying to help them feel safe and loved. There was one Sunday, when the other leader I was with was out of town. I got everything prepared, and brought all my needed supplies. I loved getting to teach the little ones, they behaved so well for me, and it was amazing to see them participate and interact with the lessons and activities I had planned. There is a sweet twelve year old girl who is severely autistic in our ward. She usually goes to primary since the kids there are older, but since the Stake Primary presidency was visiting, they put her in my nursery class for the two hour block, last minute. Unfortunately, since she’s so much older and bigger than the little two year old in my class, she doesn’t know her own strength. So it did cause a moment of worry with some of my volunteers, but she’s very musically talented so I set her up with some music and a chair. She is amazing at picking out and recognizing the instruments in the background of songs. The rare times she doesn’t know what an instrument is, she would ask me and I would answer her. It was wonderful to see how she would listen, absorb the answer, and then recognize it from then on. She is absolutely brilliant, and I LOVED working with her. My only wish is that I could have given her more individualized attention, or that I could have had someone sit with her personally who could have given her the challenge and stimulation her brilliant mind needed. My little ones needed me though, and I loved getting to teach and play with them. I was very tired afterwards, and slept the rest of the day. Ha-ha.
September – November 2014
After turning seventeen, I met a guy at Institute, and we hit it off right away. He was a twenty three year old return missionary, and had a really amazing understanding of temple covenants, and the of the gospel.
We went on a few dates, he met my family, and we went out with my family a few times. The relationship progressed really quickly. I was really grateful that he respected my wishes to save my first kiss. We were considering each other for marriage, and had discussed our views on marriage, child rearing, and on the gospel. (More about this later)
In November I also submitted my BYU application, and was working hard to prepare for my BYU dance major audition. I called up a studio near home and asked if I could rent one of their studios to practice in, and to choreograph my one minute solo in. I developed a really strict training regime prepare in a record amount of time. The transformation I witnessed was amazing. I was already in shape, but I watched as my flexibility skyrocketed, as did my strength. I was ready.
The day of the Dance Major preview it was very cold, and wet. First we went and listened to some of the teachers, and administrators of the dance major program. It was great to hear them talk about dancing from a religious perspective. It was amazing to see that dance was a part of their testimony of the church. We observed some classes, and also participated in a few others. The modern class had me way out of my element, I have never done modern dance in my LIFE. I did well, but it’s not the style of dance that I really love. I got to take a ballet class, and I was really happy about that! The director of the entire ballet program was teaching, and it was amazing! She gave me special attention, complemented my technique, and gave me corrections. When I went up to her after class to thank her, and ask her if she had any other corrections for me that I could write down for later, she spent ten minutes with me working on a few different things! I was so excited, and it was an amazing way to prep for the auditions the next day. That night the guy I was dating invited me to have Thanksgiving with his whole (large) family. I was super excited! Anyways, so audition day came, I put on my battle dress, got in my dad’s gigantic truck, and left for BYU campus. I had created a special mix, and visualizations, and I was pumped. I went in there ready to win.
I went through the auditions, and I nailed it. It was modern, but the previous day I had studied how the modern dancers at BYU moved, and I tried to emulate their style while mixing it with my own. The combination was one I really liked, and I was in the first group to perform it, so I had to nail it first shot…and I did! We did across the floor work, and then it was time for the judges to deliberate, and for us to get ready to perform our solos if they even needed to see more from us. That’s when I started getting freaked. I was born and raised in the competitive world. I didn’t get nervous, that’s just not what I did. I was used to the stakes, and the higher they were the better I danced. Well, it had been many years since then, and I was freaking out. So I pulled out my phone and called the guy I was dating, while we were waiting. We said a prayer together over the phone, and he prayed that my nerves would be calmed, and that I would be able to feel better. I really appreciated him doing that for me. In the end they didn’t need to see my solo, and so I was free to go. Which was good…because I was seriously going to hyperventilate or pass out or something. My dad took me to get steak at Texas Road House, and then it was just the waiting game from there.
A week or so later, as Thanksgiving was approaching, my guy and I were getting really serious. I knew that if I went to Thanksgiving, that there would be no going back. This was the marriage track, and I needed to make sure I was confident going in. Through prayer, study, and evaluating our relationship and his actions, I got the feeling that he wasn’t whom God intended for me, and so I broke it off. He loved how independent and smart I was, which aligned with his desire to marry a modern woman. A woman who would contribute to their life financially, by working full-time outside of the home. While he and I both knew I was completely capable of being a successful career woman, that’s not what I want. I work hard to educate myself and develop important skills, and I know I will use everything I’ve learned in the home. A family is like a business. You need a clear mission and vision as well as marketing/branding, good PR, delegation of responsibilities, and management skills so everything can run smoothly. You have to budget, plan, make goals, pitch ideas, take risks, re-evaluate directions, and foster a good working environment to increase productivity, growth, and emotional and spiritual connection and harmony. All the skills I’ve learned and continue to learn will play a major role in my future life as a wife and mother. You see, in my heart lies a desire, a hope, a dream, to be successful at my job in the home. The true meaning of success for me is a happy family. I’ve realized, that womanhood has come to mean something so different today than it used to. I have very traditional views and values regarding my role as a woman, and I cherish them. I couldn’t be with someone who didn’t value my role talked about in The Family a Proclamation To the World-or his own. I want a man who is not just willing to let me do my job, but supports me in it.
In November, I also found out about a program called the Thiel Fellowship. They pay twenty young adults under the age of twenty, $100,000 over two years to drop out of college and create a business that will bless people’s lives…but I’ll get into that a little more later.
In late December I decided to write a missionary whom I really admire, the same one who had left right before we moved to Arizona. It really helped me to remember what God wanted me to focus on: sharing the gospel of Christ with those around me. He was really an example to me, and always had been growing up as well. During this time I also filmed, wrote, and did the voice over of a commercial for a Calling Planner system my mom had created. It’s a system I’ve used since I was a Beehive and called as class president, so I was really excited about putting it all together for her. We were blessed with a white Christmas, and a warm fire. My siblings had a blast sledding down a hill across the street from us, and I had a blast sitting inside reading. It was nice to just be close as a family, remember Christ, and get some down time after all the excitement. December 22 I got my letter from the dance department at BYU, and shortly before I had gotten the email. I was accepted into the dance major, placed in Sophomore level modern classes, and they were so excited for me to attend! I was totally psyched, as long as I got into BYU itself, I would be set!
I also got a message from the midwife who delivered my baby sister, who I assisted with. (I had read the textbooks she had learned from and everything.) She was starting a school to train midwives, and I wasn’t going to have to pay for anything but supplies. I was super excited about that idea as well, so I got things prepared…but towards the end of the month I realized that it was not going to work out at all due to us being so far away. So that door was closed, but I had BYU so it wasn’t a huge deal. I was disappointed because I had wanted to be a midwife since I was twelve, and in this process as I did even more research, and started getting things set up, I realized that that just wasn’t possible with the resources I had.
In January I applied to the Thiel Fellowship (for more info on that click here) in order to keep my options open. I was super excited about the program, and what they were trying to do. For my project, I took my passion for children and for teaching, education, and family, and created an idea (for info about my idea click here). I worked nonstop on it, both day and night. In February, I received notice that I wasn’t admitted to BYU, and so I threw myself even more into the project.Over the four month process I became a semi-finalist. Only around 0.7% of people who apply got the fellowship this year (that’s more exclusive than Harvard), and so I was very proud of where I ended up.
It was in April that I found out that I hadn’t made it to the finalist round of the Thiel Fellowship. I was really disappointed but I knew I couldn’t let it get to me too much. I picked myself back up, and got going again. I’ve realized since that my main purpose in applying wasn’t to get the fellowship, but was missionary work. I was open about my beliefs and my religion, and it was an amazing opportunity to share my heart with them. The problem was, at this point I felt overwhelmingly run down from the last two years. It was really hard for me to remain positive at this point. I knew I needed to keep moving forward, and that I needed to keep my momentum otherwise I would plummet so I started writing novels again.
In may I wrote and edited another novel, and sent out query letters. I attended a writers conference here in Utah, and pitched to an agent who was really positive about my work. I also got a personal critique from a published author on my work, and he absolutely LOVED my book. Still, I could feel the tug at my homesick heart every now and again. I had been able to ease the homesickness by remaining busy, but even being busy wasn’t helping any longer. So I convinced my parents to visit Alamo with me over memorial day with the intention of moving back soon.
Unfortunately, we decided that it wasn’t time for our whole family to return yet. I was heartbroken.
I did a twitter competition querying the novel, and got requests from agents to see more work. I also started going to Singles Ward, where I was called to be a Relief Society instructor. An opportunity came up for me to be a part owner of a private school in Springville, and I was so excited about that. I ate, slept, and drank everything about it, and got as ready as I could. I couldn’t sleep for days I was so excited. It reminded me of being a dance teacher in my home town which had been a lifelong dream for me, and I hoped it would take the edge off the homesickness. Then that fell through, and I was just crushed. I realized in that process though, that there was no way I could have replaced what it was like to have a studio in my beloved Nevada.
I got a call from snow college requesting that I attend their school, and so I quickly got everything together only to be disappointed. Then I realized what a blessing it was. I didn’t want to go to college and once again was using it as a replacement for what I really wanted.
With the return of the missionary we said farewell to all those months ago, it has marked two years since we moved from our beloved home town in Nevada. His return made me wish it were MY homecoming. I love this great work, but I yearn for my patch of green in the middle of the desert, my home. I’m beginning to think I might never be able to go back. My heart has felt like it is breaking as I’ve thought about that recently, I want more than anything to be able to return. I have fasted about it a lot, and so has my family. It seems that Heavenly Father still needs us here and that our term of service has been extended. Or perhaps a person’s mission is a lifetime call. I just wish I understood my own purpose in it all. In The Hobbit it was to get land back for the people. In The Lord of the Rings it was all about destroying the ring and saving the world. For me? Crickets…..
I’m not the same person I used to be. Everything I’ve worked so hard for has brought me closer to the person I want to be and developed skills that will no doubt come in handy throughout my Journey. Each trial, each extension of myself is like a new tool to put into my pack. Still, It’s been a long journey, and that’s okay. It will be interesting to see what lies ahead, but in the mean time, I will keep hoping for a way to return home and live a peaceful, non adventurous, ordinary, beautiful life.
Um I’ve been turned into a cow…can I go home now?” Five points to Gryffindor, and just say no to Gandalf kids.
over and out,