Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Deal With Dating After Sixteen

I have news! I have finally come to a wonderful decision! For a while now I've been slightly wavering on a topic we all know lots about: dating. It is common knowledge that we shouldn't date until we're sixteen, and that once we're sixteen we should only go on group dates. But after that, the standards are a bit ambiguous. Many youth date steadily, and it's perfectly accepted by society. But there are always the few in church who advise us not to have serious relationships in high school at all. And that is where I wavered.
That point in time is still in my future, and I've been thinking about it a lot for a long time. But several things have happened in the past week to help me make up my mind.
I went to EFY. We had a class about preparing for our missions, and in it the teacher told us just how difficult it is to prepare for a mission if one has broken the law of chastity, or even very physically intimate without going all the way. I knew at that moment that I didn't even want to put myself in a situation where it would be remotely easy for such an occurrence to happen.
A return missionary spoke in our ward yesterday and talked about how the purpose of dating and being in relationships is to prepare for marriage. That's the only reason! So what's the point in high school? I'm not getting married in high school, nor do I want to get married immediately out of high school! I'm still a kid!
And, the occurrence which helped me make up my mind the most: I had a long phone conversation with my friend last night. He's not a member. But he was having some girl problems and called for advice and comfort. In our conversation, I ended up sort of bearing my testimony to him of our dating standards. I told him that the problems he was facing was one of the reasons why my church advises us not to date until age sixteen. I also told him about the purpose of serious relationships. I am very emotional, and feel things very deeply, including romantic feelings. He knows this. I told him that being in a relationship would easily put in me in situations where I would be overwhelmed with feelings, and they'd distract me from all else. I'd justify skipping my practicing viola for hanging out with my boyfriend, which will NOT propel me in the direction I want for my future and career. After telling him all of this he said, "If you can make it through high school without dating someone, I will respect you more than I respect any person in this whole world. I already respect you a lot, but this will put you through the roof. I wish I never dated these past years of high school, and I think I'm going to try that this year." Him saying that to me helped me realize how much of an influence I can be when I testify of my standards.
So after these three things happened, I made a decision. I will not date steadily in high school. It's just not worth it. I won't be as close to my Heavenly Father, and doing so will get in the way of everything. It's the principle of Good, Better, Best. Waiting til age sixteen to date is good. Going on group dates for a while before being in a relationship in high school is better. But waiting to have serious relationships until after high school is best. I want the best. I know it will bless me. I know that my life will be that much better because of this choice I am making. I know I will have more success in my pursuits. Dating in college as a young adult will be so much better.  And future generations will be blessed because of my righteous example.

"It's the principle of Good, Better, Best."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why is Life Hard?

In the past few months the question has come to my mind, "Why does the Lord make it hard for us to do the things He wants us to do?". During these months I have struggled with some injuries which make it impossible to play viola. I know that being a violist is one of my purposes in life. It will be my career and part of my future. I know that this is not only my will for me, but God's will for me. Why then, would I have injuries that make it impossible to practice? That's the only way I'll get to where I need to be! And as a matter of fact, this is the second injury I've had in the past three years which has forced me to stop playing for months at a time. Last week I found the answer to my unanswered query.
I actually knew the answer before I "understood the answer". I knew that the Lord gives us trials to increase our faith. We have hardships so that we have the added opportunity to call upon the Lord, and trust in Him and His timing. But it seemed impossible in my mind that I could progress in my musicianship without practicing. I already had a lot of faith. My predicament just didn't make sense.
At EFY we watched a video presentation where there were some apostles and prophets speaking over some clips of the bible videos (the ones that depict Christ's life). I was watching a clip of Mary, nine months pregnant, sitting on a donkey in the afternoon heat of a crowded, smelly street in Bethlehem. Being the mother of the Savior was one of her callings in life. Because of that, Heavenly Father could have made it so that she was in a comfortable, air-conditioned room with the best medical equipment around. But He didn't. He let her endure that tribulation so that she could learn of her capabilities and strength, acquire humility, and learn to further rely upon the Lord. Just like Mary, my affliction doesn't make sense. But in actuality, it does. My trials allow me to practice faith and gain humility. I am learning to put even more trust in the Lord. I have seen myself have more faith in His timing. It's truly beautiful.
I'm so grateful for the trials I have. I really am. Looking back on my past, the hardest times are the ones when I've been closest to the Lord, and they're the points in my life which I treasure the most. I'm so grateful that Father loves us enough to test us, and that He is always there during the rough and smooth patches alike.

"...nine months pregnant, sitting on a donkey in the afternoon heat of a crowded, smelly street in Bethlehem."

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Integrity Effect

Integrity is a big word. What does it mean? defines it as:
1.      adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

2.      the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.

3.      a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship's hull.
 To me, integrity means doing the right thing at the right time, even if no one is watching.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it is important for us to show integrity. We want those around us to know that we do what's right and that we follow the Savior. Showing integrity is one way you can  "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). 
It is not always easy or popular to have integrity. Often that means going against what peers may influence you to do, and demonstrating integrity may not seem like the best choice at the time, but it is. And it's worth it. Let me show you why. 
As I was studying integrity, I read many accounts from the scriptures, particularly the Bible, of heroes who had shown integrity. Some of these included Joseph (the one who ran from Potipher's wife), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (who were thrown into the furnace), and Esther (who saved her people, the Jews, from being slain). I noticed a pattern in each of their stories, which I would like to call the Integrity Effect. It goes like this:

Don't you want to be blessed with more than you ever had to begin with? Insert almost any story from the scriptures, and it will fit in the Integrity Effect. But not only will scripture stories fit into the Integrity Effect, your life fits in the Integrity Effect.
I know that I have been blessed when I show integrity. It brings me close to the Lord, and I feel true happiness.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

EFY, Ladies and Gentlemen

Hey guys, guess what? EFY was amazing, as usual!! It was SO amazing that when I got home yesterday, I took a six-hour nap. I was that exhausted!
Of course, at EFY, my favorite parts are the devotionals, dances, and awesome people that I meet. But really, the best aspect of EFY is the incredible Spirit which always envelops us. It is that Spirit which teaches us and helps our testimonies to grow. There were several people who got up to bear their testimonies at our testimony meeting on Thursday who explained that they didn't really know the church was true until they came that week and felt the Spirit bearing witness of the truth to them. Many others, myself included, watched their already-present testimonies increase right before their eyes.
Before EFY I had a very solid testimony of Christ and His atonement. But now my understanding Jesus' love and my love for him have grown so much. It's beautiful. It was so wonderful to feel the Holy Ghost teach all of us. I learned how I can apply the atonement to my life to fix and heal any problem or trial.
The people who surrounded me at EFY were such great examples of righteous living. They all came because they wanted to come closer to Christ and learn more of Him. I was particularly impressed by the young men I was with last week. They were wonderful examples of the kinds of guys I should date when I'm able to. They were thoughtful, respectful, chivalrous, and had awesome testimonies of the gospel. Plus, they were so much fun to be around, and super cute! At our company's testimony meeting, there were a few girls who cried, but mostly they quietly felt the peace of the Spirit in the room. The boys, on the contrary, were all crying so hard. Their eyes were wet the whole time, and they were all sniffling a lot. I thought it was the most awesome thing ever to see the guys be so visibly touched by the Spirit. It was adorable, and I loved it.
I'm so grateful for the opportunity I had to go to EFY. It's truly the best week of my year, every year. If you ever get the opportunity to go, seize it, and cherish every minute. Milk it for all that it's worth, and let me tell you, it's worth a lot.

Our company! I love every one of them!

Besties with one of our awesome counselors!

We love Mormon Boys.

These are some amazing young men.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

God Thinks I'm Awesome

We had an awesome lesson today in Sunday School. I love the new youth curriculum, because it lets us take the lesson where it benefits us most through discussion. Our lesson was about Covenants and Ordinances, but it turned into an impromptu testimony-sharing session about what it means to us to be children of God. The Spirit was with us so strongly, and it was incredible.
My relationship with my Heavenly Father has always been strong, but lately it has grown even more. I have a tendency to tear myself apart, and even though I have so many friends and am surrounded by so many people, there are times when I feel lonely, as so many of us do. In the past, I have had to consciously draw closer to my God to enter into His peace and rest. However, lately I have noticed several times where I might have become very sad and discouraged, or lonely, but didn't. Instead of beating myself up or comparing myself to others, I didn't have to worry, because embedded and ingrained into my very soul was the knowledge that Heavenly Father loves me. And that even if other people didn't like me, God thinks I'm awesome. In the past I had to call that knowledge up in times of stress, but recently, this knowledge came by itself. This has been such a blessing and comfort for me.
I hope that made sense. I was trying to articulate my feelings, which can be difficult sometimes.
I hope all of you have a lovely week! I am heading to EFY tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!! Ahhhhhh!!!! I'm so excited! EFY is the best! I'm sure you'll hear at least something about it when I get back.
Maybe I'll see you there?