Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It Only Takes Two Seconds

Today something nice and unexpected happened. It was small, but it is a testimony that small things can make all the difference.

In Spanish class today, I happened to be walking across the classroom when a fairly "popular" guy said, "Hey Whitney, I like your shirt". (I use the term "popular" VERY loosely. I don't generally tend to like that word, but if suffices for now to get my point across). I knew that he knew who I was, but I didn't know that he ever noticed me or thought about me. But he today, he made the effort to take two seconds to compliment me. It didn't mean he has a crush on me, or anything more than exactly what he said. He likes my shirt. Because I derive my sense of self-worth from my relationship with the Lord and not what other people think of me, this wasn't a huge "self-image-changing" moment for me. However, it was nice to hear, and verified in my mind that people do notice me- that people beyond my immediate realm of friends and acquaintances recognize me and accept me. He probably doesn't even remember this occurrence, but I do.

Later in the school day, my orchestra teacher was telling us about the significant impact that seemingly-small actions can have. He said, "In two seconds you can either make someone's day by saying "hi" to them in the hallway, or you can be a jerk and ignore them." I immediately thought back to my experience earlier this morning in Spanish class, and how that experience I'd had really testified of the truthfulness of my teacher's words.

So, what can I take from this? Two seconds, five seconds, or five minutes really do make ALL the difference. If I had been having a terrible day and felt really badly about myself, how much more would that compliment have meant to me? But people all around us feel like that! And we can make the difference. I am going to make it a point in my life to cheer up and lift up as many people as I can. It only takes a few seconds, but the result lasts so much longer than that. By strengthening our brothers and sisters like this, we are truly instruments in the Lord's hands. And as we actively search for and respond to instances where we can uplift others, we will be blessed with more opportunities to do so.

"Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise." -Alma 37:6

Friday, January 24, 2014

Humble Happiness

A few days ago I woke up, as they say, on the wrong side of the bed. Something about me is that I make it a point in my life to be happy as much as I can, but that morning, I just couldn't be, no matter how hard I tried. So, I told myself that I couldn't get ready for school until I was happy. I said a prayer, telling Heavenly Father that I wanted to be happy, and that I was trying to be happy. I asked Him to help me be happy. But when I completed my prayer, I still wasn't happy. Frustrated, I immediately began praying again. This time I said, "I can't do this on my own. I really need thy help to be happy today.". All of a sudden, it was as if the negativity inside of me was swept away. It just kind of dissipated. Throughout the course of the day, several things went wrong, because of which, a couple people told me it just wasn't my day, but I was still genuinely happy nonetheless. This is because my happiness came not from my circumstances and surroundings, but from God, and my relationship with Him.

This experience reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures (which happens to be a Book of Mormon scripture mastery!), Ether 12:27-

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." 

Usually I think of this in term of "big weaknesses", habitual ones that take lots of time to correct. However, that day I realized that it can apply to "small weaknesses" as well. Because I went to the Lord in prayer and recognized that I couldn't be happy by myself that day, and that I could only do it through Him, He made that weak thing become strong for me that day.

I am going to try to apply this more often in my life. For example, you may recall that my favorite phrase is, "I can do hard things!". I am now amending it to say, "I can do hard things with God!". What can you do in your life through humility? It really is a power. 

*(By the way, finding "if/then" phrases in the scriptures is really cool. You'll see that I highlighted the scripture above in that way. These are conditional promises the Lord gives us. It's pretty cool to find them! I always mark them in my scriptures when I come across them! And they don't ALWAYS have the words if/then explicitly written, but the promises are still there.)  


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Scriptures with my Sister

I have taken to studying Preach My Gospel for an hour each Sunday morning now that we have morning church. This in itself has been so amazing. It is going to prepare me so well for my mission! But not only that, I can learn so much about the gospel just for myself from the wisdom in those sage pages. The coolest thing, though, is that I have been setting an example in my home by studying this each week. But not in the way you'd expect.

Each Sunday morning in the middle of my study, my four-year-old sister saunters into my room. The first time this happened, she asked me what I was doing. Our conversation went like this:

Sis: "What are you doing, Whitney?"
Me: "I'm studying the scriptures!"
Sis: "Oh. I like your colored highlighters."

Five minutes later.

Sis: "Why do you study the scriptures?"
Me: "Well, they're the words of Jesus, and I love Jesus, so I want to read His words. That's why I read my scriptures everyday."
Sis: "Oh. When I'm a teenager like you, I'm going to read my scriptures every day, too!"
Me: "Wow! Did you know you can do that right now?"
Sis: *Astonished face
Me: "Yeah! You can get your Book of Mormon and read it everyday!"
Sis: "Oh yes! I'm going to read the scriptures everyday just like you!"

What a cutie! So she got out her scriptures and started reading them. A few days later, I came home from school and found that my sister had two friends over and they were playing make-believe. After a while, she exclaimed, "Oh, girls, I haven't read my scriptures yet today! It's time for me to read the scriptures. You can keep playing." It was wonderful.

I'm so grateful for my little sister. She's my best friend. And I'm so grateful for the role I can have in helping her be excited about and gain a testimony of the gospel. I feel the Spirit so much when she learns about the gospel.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Studying El Libro de Mormon

Something you may or may not know about me is that I have a small obsession with Spanish and Latino things. (Okay, not really. It's a big one!) I love learning the language, I love learning about the culture, the music, the food, ohhhh the food! I even enjoy telenovelas. (Those are kind of like soap operas. It's kind of hard to find appropriate ones... but I've found a few!) Anyway, the point is, I love Spanish. I have a goal to become fluent in the language by the time I graduate high school. So, a week-ish ago I was wondering what other things I could do to help me get better at the language besides the things I am already doing. So I tried to think about how I learned English, and then it hit me! Reading the Book of Mormon!

Therefore, this past Sunday, I pulled up the Spanish BOM on my phone, and I began reading right where I had left off the night before, but this time in Spanish. I would read half of a verse in Spanish, then read the same thing in English. Then I'd finish the verse in Spanish, and finish it in English. Some of the verses I could understand completely without referencing the English text, while others were more difficult. 

Studying my scriptures this way has been delighting me! I noticed a difference in my Spanish comprehension and expanse of vocab literally the next day! Not only has my Spanish been improving, but this has proven to be a very in-depth method of reading my scriptures. Because I spend so much time on each word and phrase, sometimes reading them three or four times, I really have time to ponder the meaning and imagine the goings-on in my head.

My testimony of the power of the Book of Mormon is growing with this new way I'm studying it. Not only do I feel the Spirit when I read it, and recognize it's truth, but I can see how God uses it to bless us in such a variety of ways. It is the truest book on earth. We become closer to God through the Book of Mormon than with any other book on earth. As such, the Lord is blessing me with increased knowledge of Spanish for using the Book of Mormon to study Spanish. It's hard to describe just how it works. It reminds me of how studying the Book of Mormon right before studying for school helps you study more effectively and remember the things you study. Heavenly Father loves to bless us! Especially with knowledge, because knowledge is light, and God loves light.

I just love the Book of Mormon! Y, me encanta El Libro de Mormon.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

"I Can Do Hard Things"

"I can do hard things" is by far my favorite phrase. Ever. I use it all the time, whether I'm trying to accomplish some herculean task or just get through an extra rough day. I have gotten into the habit of saying it aloud whenever something is tough, therefore, the people around me now know this phrase. I didn't think very much of it until one day a few weeks ago.

I was sitting in AP Music Theory with my good friend *Jenny. I respect Jenny soooo much. She is one of the best trumpet players in the state where we live. She juggles hard classes, music, and is an awesome swimmer. In addition, she is one of the nicest, most fun people I know. It would be an understatement to say that I look up to Jenny. So there we were in AP Theory, working on some homework, or something. Jenny leaned over to me and said, "Oh Whitney, I meant to tell you this a couple days ago. Last week I had a swim meet. I was really tired and wanted to give up while competing, but then your little phrase came to my mind that 'I can do hard things!'. That totally helped me keep going, and I'm going to use that as my little mantra from now on." As you can probably imagine, her telling me that made my life. It was so special to me that something I did helped Jenny, without me even trying.

Because Jenny told me that my phrase helped her, the phrase became more significant to me, and I began to use it more. A week or two later, I was having a really rough night. I was so frustrated with my lack of musical progress because of my injuries. So I turned to Jenny. Half an hour after I sent her a super long facebook message, she sent one back. That message contained the exact words I needed to hear. She encouraged me so much. And at the very end she said, "Oh, and Whitney, you can totally do hard things!".

You, too, can do hard things; this phrase does not only apply to Jenny and I! Perhaps you, or someone you know are going through an extra tricky challenge. Maybe you are working on some really intense New Year's Resolutions. And even still, you may just need a little burst of encouragement on those extra rough days. Let me tell you, "You can do hard things". This is because we are children of God. We cannot do hard things by ourselves. Of course we make the choice to persevere and hold fast until the end, but it is through God's power and because of His love that we can accomplish great things.

What can you accomplish with this knowledge? How can you grow and progress? Test the limits. Find out!