Friday, December 31, 2010

My Resolution: Simply Be Me

I've been mentally dwelling on this upcoming year and resolutions that I could make for this New Year's Eve. I could write down all my hopes and dreams, rewrite them into clever goals, and then proceed to never look at them again until the end of the year. This is what I do each year. I'm not ashamed to admit it, because this has been the case in the past. I always make the same goals too... The main one being something about losing weight and upping my personal "hot-o-meter." Haha!

Each year I fail. Yes, I fluctuate weight and it goes up and down, but I never really seem to keep off a lot of weight. This past year, however, I did lose 17 pounds and I kept off 13 of those pounds. That's good on me! More important, I had a realization this past year.

I realized that the reason I always made the same goal was because I was concerned about what boys thought. It's true. I am 25 years old, and I am just now realizing that there is so much more to me than physical appearance and what someone thinks about the size of my waist or thighs. I've had virtually NO trouble grasping this concept in regards to other individuals, but considering myself, I have always fallen short of this comprehension.

I can recall thinking on this a lot after New Year's Eve of my senior year in HS. I spent the night at my friend Laura's house with a bunch of the girls from marching band. All the boys stayed at a house just across the street and we probably separated at about four in the morning. Before we dozed off to catch a few hours of sleep, we started talking about the boys - of course. One of the girls was so concerned that some of the boys were giving her attention because of her larger assets.

Hey, I'm trying to keep this G-Rated people.

As this girl continued to complain, I told her how beautiful she was and not to worry about it. I said, if she was really concerned not to wear things that drew so much attention to them. She didn't have to do that to get attention, but she didn't feel that way. She stated, "Linze, you're so lucky. You're never going to have to worry about a boy liking you or marrying you for your looks. You'll know they really love YOU."

Um... ouch.

I look back now (as in, the last year and half) and can laugh. I know that she didn't really mean it in a cruel way, but it was probably not the best way to get across her point. I am lucky. I'm not a Barbie or a beauty queen, and I believe that I really will know that someone loves me for me before I get married. However, I'm not un-beautiful. I'm not some homely, hideous woman who should never attempt at going after the boy that she wants. In fact, I don't believe there are many women like this - just women who need more self-confidence and a little make-over. However, at the time of this comment, I felt a little bit pierced - a little bit like the confidence bubble I had grown had been popped. I felt like I was that homely, hideous woman, and have thus failed to go after many boys that I have been interested in.

This is about to get bold.

I was talking with my best friend yesterday about some of my personal revelations from the last year, and she said that I tended to put myself into the best friend role with boys - I give myself that label because it's safer. I was a bit stung, but knew instantly she was spot on. Man, I have the best friends... I love that they know when to be honest with me in order to help me grow, improve, and be happier.

After this thought, we talked about it, and I realized that I do this not because I am afraid of rejection, but because I'm afraid of rejection for not being pretty enough. That may appear lame, and lamer still that I am blogging about it, but I hope that is will help other girls (and boys) realize that fear is irrational. MY fear is irrational. Fear is a lack of faith, and therefore, a lack of faith in that which God has created.

I have dated a few boys in my life, and I can think of three that have told me they were choosing someone else because they were prettier. They're schmucks. Excuse the terminology if it offends you, but that's all they are - schmucks. They were blind to something great before them - something flawed, but great. They were focused on one aspect of a relationship and not the things that really matter. Yes, physical attraction matters - I know. However, I know that I have been deeply attracted to guys with different appearances (shorter, WAY tall, chubby, super skinny, average all the way around, ones with beautiful eyes...) because they make me laugh and they show me they care about me. Or, we have a lot in common and we share the same values and standards. So, why couldn't a boy look past a thick waist to see how I make them laugh or feel appreciated? The good ones can. This goes for all girls and body types - really skinny, super chunky, a bit more to love, average or normal, killer curves... We all feel this way from time to time, no matter what we look like - we want to be more than that to a man.

There have been some pretty fantastic, cute, good men that HAVE liked me and dated me... So, my fear is irrational, and needs to find it's permanent end in the new year.

Plus, it just doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what that cute guy at the gym thinks when you can't seem to run as many miles on the treadmill as Miss Thang to the left. It doesn't matter what that girl at the supermarket said about you last week as you passed by in your sweats, buying ice cream and salad (or, just ice cream - haha!). It doesn't matter what your mom said about you looking a little too skinny or fat after a long, hard semester at University(I've been lucky to never experience this... but I know many not as lucky). It matters that YOU feel good when you wake-up in the morning. It matters that you feel healthier and happier with each day. It matters that you feel confident in the clothes you wear, or don't wear.

Bathing suits, people. Again, this is G-Rated.

This past year, I have grown in so many ways. I feel good about myself. I feel better about my body and the way I present myself, and although I am still a "bigger girl," I feel healthier and more athletic. I have more muscle and greater endurance. I would wake up and be content with what I saw in the mirror. This wasn't the case everyday (we all have our "fat days" - even boys), but it was most days. I feel happy with who I am, and who I am becoming - mentally, spiritually, AND physically.

I love me... and, I love my body.

I am sure there will be days that I will wake-up and not feel that way, but that's not vindication for beating myself up about it, or not eating for the day. It means I should evaluate why I feel that way, and address the situation accordingly. Sometimes, those feelings are a wake-up call to get more in shape (physically or emotionally), but sometimes, they are simply there to bring you down. Do NOT let self-doubt, fear, or what anyone else says be the rationale for negative feelings or self-loathing.

There's a quote from C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Aslan says to Lucy, "You doubt you're value. Don't run from who you are."

We are children of God. Our value is high above anything else. We are divine creations, and we are Gods and Goddesses in-waiting. If in doubt, or if you are filled with fear (even irrational ones about fearing you are not beautiful enough), turn to the atonement. I'm still learning the full access we are given to the atonement, but I know it is real. I know that it not only covers our sins or trials, but our fears or doubts. The volume of all it encompasses surpasses more than most can imagine. Find the beauty in yourself through your Savior, and then... Go out there and rock the world! :)

What is this year's New Year's Resolution, you ask?

Simply to be me, and to feel beautiful in all-aspects while doing it - because I am.
*muah*

Song of the Day: My favorite lyrics in this song are, "We can be the kings and queens of anything if we believe," because we are... we just have to figure out how to remember that. I also like, "Exactly who we are is just enough!" Here is Carrie Underwood's song, There's a Place For Us - from Voyage of the Dawn Treader soundtrack. Enjoy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Reunions: Take One!

So, about fourteen hours after my return to the states, I had the GREATEST gift ever for Christmas! I got to see my best friend, Sarah! She is awesome and it was GREAT to see her after not seeing each other face-to-face for two and half years. She was on a mission from October 2008 through March 2010 and I left in January 2010... So, two and half years later (about) we finally got to see each other. We were a BIT excited, screaming and running to hug each other, and it was fantastic to visit and just finally be able to call one another whenever we want, or see each other in a short drive's time. It's fabulous.

After seeing Sarah for only a few moments at my house, we headed out to meet up with another friend and old roommate of ours, Melissa! Can I just say, I love Melissa!? Haha... It was SO fun, sitting for two to two and a half hours, just visiting and eating... Oh, and might I say, Cafe Rio is STILL as good as it always was! Be still my heart... I love me a pork salad. Haha!

Anyway, I was SO lucky to see some of my closest friends - Melissa certainly has become that to me. Merry Christmas Eve to me! Haha...

Other notes: I sang in church today with my mom and my sister - SO awesome! We sang "Breath of Heaven," from Amy Grant's Christmas song book. We were all hacking and gacking beforehand cause we've been sick, but we pulled through and it was so great to sing with them. I haven't sung with them in public ever, so it was a neat experience.

Christmas was good... I feel blessed to be safely back in my home here in UT, surrounded by friends and family. I'm a lucky girl.
Next challenge: Finding a job! If anyone knows of anything, drop me a line. I would LOVE to work in the theater, film, entertainment field, but I am open to other things. I wouldn't mind getting more experience in a secretarial post, political office, or within the events arena. If anyone hears anything, PLEASE pass it on! :) Vielen Dank!
*muah*

Song of the Day: I'm lovin' on this jam... Here is Fefe Dobson with her new song, Stuttering! The video is somewhat random and bizarre, but the song is great. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I am Thankful for My Savior, Jesus Christ!

Today is one of the most important days of the entire year for me... It's not simply because it's the day we celebrate and remember the birth of our Savior, but because it's got a spirit about the day. We are so blessed to have a holiday that, as long as we let it, can truly be dedicated to our Savior. We have the commercial aspects of Santa and presents (actually religious, because it relates back to the Three Wise Men), but it's a lot greater than that. Every Christmas I gift a gift to my Savior and my Heavenly Father. I dedicate the next year to working on specific faults I struggle with and to helping others around me. I put my faith in Them, and forge forward... and though They give me another gift in helping me overcome those faults and reminding me to reach out to others, I give that to Them as a gift. I love my Savior and am so thankful for all that he has done for me. He has given me the power to overcome death and to be the best person that I can be, because of Him.

So, today I want to dedicate this thankfulness entry to my Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ.

This might see, trivial - a blog entry dedication to my Savior - but it is what it is. Haha! I love my Savior, and I know that he loves me. He died for me, and now lives again for me. He is always there for me - my comfort, healer, support, guide, and friend. I know that He has been through ALL things, including all of my trials. With that knowledge, I know that I can overcome all things and get the guidance I need from Him. I know that He loves each and everyone of you as well, and that you can turn to Him in all things... I encourage all to do so. Today, and everyday, I am thankful for Him, My brother, friend, Savior, and friend... I love Him - Jesus Christ.
*muah*

Song of the Day: A perfect song to help celebrate Christmas and the birth of our Savior. Here is one my other favorite Christmas songs, O Holy Night - sung by Josh Groban. Enjoy!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Back to Life, Back to Surreality!

So.... I'm back on American soil! It's the weirdest feeling. It feels fantastic to be home, but it also feels surreal. I am loving my big bed and all my pillows, seeing old friends and my family, eating Cafe Rio (already went with Sarah and Melissa today!), shopping at Gap (not yet) and having ice in my drinks... but I am missing my German family in little ways as well. Plus, it doesn't QUITE feel real yet. I feel as though I am stepping back into my old life, and yet it's completely different. Even all of the rooms in my house look completely different... New furniture and all rearranged in places... There are new stores near my house and the freeway exits off of the Draper/Sandy Walmart is completed. These are little changes, but it's still different to see. Then, there's the fact that many of my friends have left Utah, something that I would like to do again in a few months. I'm happy for them all, but again, it's just different...

In a way, the differences also make things exciting. It's motivating for me to get a start on a new life... to create new adventures. I'm excited to find a new job and to venture forward into the "new me." I have changed and grown SO much in the last year, and I believe more in myself, and more in my Savior. I am ready to take a few leaps, fall down a lot, and figure out where I fit into the world...where I really want and need to be.

Tonight for Christmas Eve, we had the usual traditions of a finger-food dinner, reading the scriptural stories of Christ's birth (Bible and Book of Mormon), playing Name-That-Tune, opening a few gifts... then we added a movie in there as well. It was perfect... I'm glad that I got to be home for Christmas. As I said before, I'm a lucky girl.
*muah*

Song of the Day: It's Christmas Eve, so... Let's make my FAVORITE Christmas song our song choice for the day, shall we? Yes, we shall. Here is Amy Grant with her song, Breath of Heaven, with beautiful clips from "The Nativity Story" film. Enjoy!

I am Thankful for my American Family!!!

I was lucky enough to spend tonight with my family here in Utah, celebrating Christmas Eve with the old (and some new) traditions. I am pretty lucky and thankful, so this next dedication should come as no shock to anyone. There are two people in my life that have meant so much to me from the time of my existence and on. They are two of the most thoughtful and loving individuals that I know. They are always thinking of their children, and the others around them, and they put those interests before their own. They are hilariously wonderful and I laugh more than anything at their dumb jokes and classic wit. They are two of the BEST people that I know and I love being with them.

Today, I want to dedicate this special day to my mom and dad, Grace and Mike Struiksma!

You two must make so many of my friends jealous of me... because I have two of the most fabulous parents in the world. Think what you will, but you two have been nothing but great to me. You have taught me SO much, and you did such a great job giving me everything that I have needed in life. You are always there for me, and I know that I can talk to you about everything. You're AMAZING, and I love you both SO much! Thanks for all you have helped me to become. Today, I am thankful for YOU, Mom and Dad!!!
*muah*

Song of the Day: I know this song says "Mom, you always were the perfect fan," but I feel that way about BOTH of you! This is for you BOTH! :) Here is Backstreet Boys with The Perfect Fan. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I am Thankful for my German Family!!!

This next group of individuals as grown to become more like a second family over the past year. They are incredible people, and so much fun to be around. They offered me a spot in their home over the past year, and with that the opportunity to learn a new culture and language - well, some of the language... Haha! I was given the chance to travel all over Europe, bringing the total number of countries I have been to fourteen... pretty awesome. I am SO thankful for the many things I have learned from them about teaching, parenting, socializing, and about myself. I feel like a fuller, more defined person because I had this experience and because of each of them. EACH of them have taught me new things, and I am beyond thankful for them.

Today, I dedicate my thankfulness memo to The Warner/Merl's - Koko, Patrick, Nicolas, and Phineas - my German Family!

You guys are an incredible family! I am SO thankful to know you and have you a piece of my life. I am so thankful for all I have learned throughout this year. Thank you for the laughs, the intelligent conversation, the thought-provoking questions, the life-lessons, and for being there for me when I have really needed someone. To the boys, keep learning and growing - make that your life goal and forge forward. You are AMAZING boys!!! I love you all - Today, I am thankful for YOU, Finn, Nico, Patrick, and Koko! :)
*muah*

Song of the Day: Okay, so I kind of have to choose two... The first song is for the boys - Love Today, by Mika. The second song is for Koko and Patrick (a good boogie jam!) - September, by Earth, Wind and Fire. LOVE YOU GUYS!!! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thankful I Know, Nicole LeGrow!

This next individual has grown to be one of my best friends in the past six years. They have away of always making me laugh and know how to bring something new to every conversation. They are thoughtful and caring of others, and someone who is truly passionate about service. Her eye is constantly focused on the Savior, and as a result, she is one of the best people that I know. She has been through a lot in life, and shown that anyone can overcome adversity to still become something amazing. She's a great example. I am so thankful for the incredible things that I have learned from her - and I can be stubborn. She is an amazing teacher, and she gives a lot of time to those she works with - a lot of extra effort. It's inspiring. She is inspiring.

Today, I want to dedicate my thankfulness memo to, Nicole LeGrow!

Nicole, you are one of my dearest, closest friends! I am certain that our friendship will be one that lasts and I'm excited about that. You are amazing - such an example to me. You have been there for me through some of my hardest trials, and you didn't let me fall to the wayside. You have been a great light to me, not only religiously, but just in happiness and excitement in my life. You make things fun! Man, we have so many little jokes and I could just sit and laugh forever with you. But, the thing I love is that we can spend time joking and having fun, but still have good, serious conversation too. I know you care about me, and I hope you know how deeply I care about you. You are a best friend to me, Nicole. You are the family that I choose. I love you a million billion. Today, I am thankful for YOU, Nicole!
*muah*

Song of the Day: HAHA... Oh, I didn't think much over this one. The answer was CLEAR. Here is My United States of Whatever, by Liam Lynch. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Candice Is What Dreams Are Made Of!!!

This next girl was one of my strongest confidants while I was in High School. She and I took awhile to really warm-up to each other and become close friends, but she ended up becoming one of my closest friends in High School, and I still consider her a friend now. She isn't someone that I see all the time, but I know that it wouldn't feel weird at all to randomly meet-up and hangout tomorrow. It was like that in college... We lived in different areas of the same city all through our college years, and though our hang-outs were far and few between, we always felt comfortable together and could talk about any and everything. She is just that kind of person to me - a true friend. She is also someone that I look-up to and admire SO much! She has SUCH a good heart and really cares about her friends. She loves to make them laugh, and trust me, we have spent TONS of our time together doing that. She's the kind of girl that always "spices things up" and is the life of the party. She's a dancing queen, karaoke star, and fashion guru - one that I always look to for style tips to "spice up" my wardrobe. Haha! She's just FUN, and KIND, and an amazing person!

Today, I want to dedicate my blog entry of thankfulness to Candice Cheney Carter!

Candice, you are someone that will always be considered a close friend in my life. I know that I can always count on you, and that you are sincere with me. You have taught me so much about confidence in myself and in others. You just build people without even trying! It's a unique gift, and I'm thankful you've used it with me. I have SO many memories with you - "borrowing" the pirates sign from McDonald's, EFY dances and dancing around our room, Show Choir, late night drives, double dates, Graduation, Pioneer Treks and youth conference... The list could run mils deep and it was all good! You have a good heart, and an incredible testimony, and I am a stronger woman in the gospel because of your influence and spirit. I have no doubt that Charlotte is one of the luckiest little girls on the planet. To have a mother like you, and a father like Craig, is such a blessing - you are AMAZING parents, I'm sure! Thank you for always being a friend, and letting me know that you're there for me... It has meant a lot. Today, I am thankful for YOU, Candice! (Or, should I say, C-LO? Haha!)
*muah*

Song of the Day: There are a million and one jams that I could dedicate to Candice that remind me of our HS dances, driving through C-ville or after seminary, or just from hanging out... "My body is a wonderland!" - HAHA! However, this has to be a classic for us... Here is Lizzie McGuire's (aka: Hillary Duff's) song, This Is What Dreams Are Made Of - REMIX STYLE!!! (P.S. One, I can STILL tell when it's her of her stunt double dancing. Two, I can't believe I found both versions together without having to skip tracks by myself - haha!) Enjoy!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Heidelberg, Germany! (FINALLY!)

On Saturday, I had the chance to sneak in one more trip before heading back to the states. Since I arrived here, I was told by numerouss people how amazing Heidelberg, Germany was. I was told by missionaries, ward members, random people, and friends. So, I planned to go... and after three times of my plans falling-through, me and Dana finally made it to Heidelberg on this past weekend. I am happy to report, everyone was quite right... Heidelberg is GORGEOUS!

The hillsides surrounding it remind me SLIGHTLY of Utah, but then I look and see the kinds of houses on those hillsides and the castles, and I realize that I'm definitely NOT in Utah. Haha... The streets of the city are really cool too - narrow passageways, minus the main, center strip, and cool buildings line the way. The only downsides to the trip were the Christmas Market not quite living up to it's potential, and the public transportation there. The public transportation consists of a few S-bahns and buses, but not enough for how many tourists there are, and how many people simply live there. It made little sense to me, but it didn't ruin the trip in the slightest. The other downside, the Christmas Market, wasn't a ruining factor either, just a minor disappointment. The Market wasn't tiny or terrible, but not what I was expecting and nothing special - I expected special. Haha! Still, it was a cute market and I was glad that I went to check it out.

My favorite part of Heidelberg was the castle! The old castle ruins (and parts that are still mostly intact, but not in use) were SO much fun to see and walk around inside of... Dana and I spent about an hour and a half poking around the ruins, walking through old halls, taking pictures off the look-out points, and checking out the Apoteke Museum (Pharmacy Museum). Dana is studying that at University right now, so she was way excited. I thought it was really interesting to see the stuff from during and right after the World Wars, and how medicine was rationed, sold, and distributed. Overall, the castle was worth going to see for sure it was BEAUTIFUL up there - especially with the snow! It made the city below look very majestic.








Sidenote: One of my FAVORITE moments of the trip? Seeing THIS sign in someone's window - they live near the castle, so they must see lots of tourists walk past... Or have a neighborhood peeping-Tom? Let's hope not. (In case you can't read the words, it says, "This Is Not A Zoo. Thank you for not staring at me." - CLASSIC.)


On the way back from Heidelberg, we had a handful of stressful moments as trains were cancelled and delayed, and we had to change our plan. The weather really can foul up someone's travel plans... I just hope it doesn't do that on Thursday for me getting home. It made us arrive about an hour later than planned back in Bonn, but we got there! We even had good attitudes through most of the trip too - minus our anger toward the drunk, loud soccer boys. Boo! We drowned them out by watching "Hot Rod," so it was all good... Haha! What a classic movie. We were both praying and praying that the trains could get us home that night... and they did. Let's all pray I can make it home safely and with no delay on Thursday. Danke. Haha!

So, all-in-all Heidelberg was a complete success! I had a great time, got to go with a good friend, and got to see a new place before I headed home... I'm a lucky girl. I'm a very lucky girl.
*muah*

Song of the Day: The other day, I randomly stumbled across something on YouTube called, A Very Potter Musical. I thought it would be a song of two and rather dumb... WELL, it was a FULL-BLOWN MUSICAL (written by Darren Criss, who is plays Harry Potter AND is now on Glee as the character Blaine) and was AWESOME! Okay, some parts were lame-o and some a bit inappropriate, but most of it was pretty darn funny. I confess, I watched the whole thing... and the sequel... and got the soundtracks! Haha... SO, on Saturday, I showed Dana (my German HP buddy!) some of the songs, which she thought were HILARIOUS. So.... Here is the song and scene Back to Hogwarts, from A Very Potter Musical - It's in two parts. Enjoy!

Thanks to Three Women of Strength!

These next ladies have been so great to me throughout my last year here in Germany! At different moments they have taken me under their wing and helped me out in little ways. I have felt blessed to call each of them a friend and am thankful for their examples to me. They are each INCREDIBLE mothers and examples of parenting. I have spoken with each one at different times about how they deal with certain things, and they always have the best advice. They have always been supportive of me as I have been here, and willing to help whenever it's needed. I am thankful for who they have helped me become in this past year, as I have learned a lot from each one of them. It wasn't about the amount of time I spent with them, but the examples each woman set. I see such a light from each one of them. They are incredible individuals.

Today, I want to send my thankfulness memo to Steffi Thomas, Heidi Miller, and Coreen Engstrom!

I am grateful for all that each of you have a taught me! I love you each of you so much and have found that I am better at being ME because of each of you. I've seen some pretty nightmare parents (and kids) while working in schools back home, but you guys are different. You give me hope in parenting and raised some incredible children. At one time or another, all of you have shared your testimony with me... You have brought a new strength to me and added new pieces to my testimony. Additionally, I am thankful for just the comfort of knowing you as I have been here in Germany- having someone to talk or laugh with. It can be SO hard to feel at home in a foreign country, and you each made me feel a part of something at one point. I am beyond grateful for that. I hope that someday, I can take on attributes from each of you, and become a ultra-super-mom! Haha... Or, at least a better person. Today, I am thankful for YOU, Coreen, Heidi, and Steffi! :)
*muah*

Song of the Day: I figured that I should post a song that would let you ladies know that your lessons will always b with me - So, here is I Will Remember You, by Sarah McLachlan. Enjoy!

Sarah McLachlan - I Will Remember You
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mein Ansprachen - What Do YOU Want to Do This Christmas?

Today was my last Sunday in Germany... It was the last time that I will speak in the Bonn, Germany ward and the last time I will see a lot of the people there in person. It was one of those days that kind of passed me in a blur, but it was a good one. The colors were vivid and bright, and the moments were special and authentic. I feel good about the connections I have made while here in Germany, and know that some will continue... while some will fade. I feel fulfilled in sharing my testimony with those around me through my example and quite literally, as well. I have chosen to leave a mark, and I hope that those people here in Bonn accept it as a positive one.

As it was my last Sunday, I was asked to give a "farewell talk," in Sacrament Meeting. I could have tried out my Deutsch, but I stuck to English and Dana translated for me. I gave her a copy yesterday to copy over in to German. It was SUCH a weird experience, because I had to really stick to my talk that I wrote and not fly into a tangent. The weirdest part, however, was the waiting in between what I said.... Just bizarre. Haha!

I was asked to speak about "What I would like to do for Christmas this year?" This struck me as a somewhat awkward topic, with no specific religious focus. Perhaps that was the point - to leave it open-ended and free to interpretation. However, I spent more than a week just pondering which direction to take. Finally, I just asked myself the presented question, "What DID I want to do this Christmas?" The answers were clear and created the perfect talk. Here's what I came up with... (I went a little quote crazy! :P)

This Christmas, I wish to do two things. I wish to grow closer to my family here on earth, and I wish to grow closer to my Savior. Let me begin with the latter.

Christmas is a celebration and commemoration to Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and brother. As we focus on him, we are geared to become more Christ-like. Think about it – When you are constantly thinking about something, your actions reflect that mind-set. As we take the time to remember that Christmas is about CHRIST, our outward expressions will mirror His actions.

When I think about how to become more Christ-like, I think about his character. I think about his life and ministry. He not only taught us in parables and allegories what was right and wrong, but he taught us by his example. So, how can we become more like Christ? By following his example, and living in the same way. Christ lives with an attitude of gratefulness, hands filled with service, and love toward his family.

Gratitude

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you?’" ~ William A. Ward (American Religious Writer)

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” ~ Meister Eckhart (German Philosopher and Theologian)

“… Gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.” – President Thomas S. Monson

"If we only look around us, there are a thousand reasons for us not to be happy, and it is simplicity itself to blame our unhappiness on the things we lack in life. It doesn't take any talent at all to find them. The problem is, the more we focus on the things we don’t have, the more unhappy and more resentful we become" - Joseph B. Wirthlin

In the US we have a holiday called Thanksgiving toward the end of November. I’m sure many of you know about this holiday. What I love most about this holiday is not the actual history behind it, but the way it focuses me before the holiday madness begins. I am able to take a moment and just recognize the things that I have to be thankful for. Yes, I could do this on any day, but I’m appreciative of the reminder.

This year, I wanted to really focus on that attitude of gratitude leading up to Thanksgiving and on through Christmas. One day, as I was riding my bike back from picking-up Nico at school, I started to think about what I could do to focus more on my thankfulness for other people. It seems simple and perhaps superfluous, but I started a daily dedication of thankfulness that I post on my blog each evening. I wrote a list of many people who have really blessed and influenced my life in great or small ways, and the list was pretty long. So, it will not only go on through Christmas, but till the New Year. For me, this was the perfect way to focus on the importance of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and just life in general… It helps me remember that I always can find something, or someone to be grateful for.

Amulek speaks to the Zoramites in Mosiah 34:38, and reminds them to “…live in Thanksgiving daily.” As we live with our hearts geared toward thankfulness we will grow to become more Christ-like, which leads to knowing him better…

"Through expression of prayerful gratitude and thanksgiving, we show our dependence upon a higher source of wisdom and knowledge—God the Father and his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" - Robert D. Hales

Gratitude brings us closer to our Savior.

Service

"Only a life lived for others, is a life worthwhile." – Albert Einstein

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." - Mahatma Gandhi

By serving those around us, we serve our Father in Heaven, and we serve our Savior, Jesus Christ. In Mosiah 2:17 it reads, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.”

Along with this message, one of my favorite talks is President Uchtdorf’s “Ye Are My Hands” from the April 2010 General Conference. He states, “As we emulate His perfect example, our hands can become His hands; our eyes, His eyes; our heart, His heart.” As we emulate his perfect example, we become more like him… We grow closer to our Savior, and we grow to understand His love for us and for others.

One of the hardest and darkest times in my life was during my sophomore year in college. There were things going on in my family, I had some health issues to deal with, my school work-load was really heavy, and my job was taking a toll on my time. I was constantly stressed and focused on MY problems. Then, I was called to be the chair for the Service Committee in my ward. I was a bit overwhelmed at first, and though I said yes, I had no idea how I would have the time to help others and even THINK of activities when I was so busy. Again, I was thinking of myself.

As the semester carried on, I found myself dedicated to the cause of my calling. It’s funny, but that “extra thing piled on” to my already crazy life, was the biggest blessing. As I made an effort to look out for others, and for opportunities to serve those in my ward and area, my mind was relieved of the stress from my own problems. I found that looking outward, not only blessed the lives of others, but really blessed my own life. I forget that semester sometimes, but when I remember it, I recall that service is what saved me… and it definitely brought me closer to Christ.

My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.” – Thomas S Monson

Family

Jesus Christ showed his great love for his Heavenly Father when he said, “Father if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) He also showed his great love for us as he took on each of our sins moments later. I tend to forget that Christ is not only my Savior, but my brother. He is my family. I think when I remember that, the Atonement has a deeper meaning to me.

When I was writing this talk, thinking of how to gel my ideas together, I realized that the two things I want to do this Christmas go hand-in-hand with one another. As we grow closer to our Savior, and become Christ-like, we grow closer to our family, because He is family. He is our brother.

With the same mind-set toward out earthly family, the same thing happens. As you show them the gratitude that you have for them, showing them thanks for all they do for you and for who they are, and as we serve them, we grow closer to them. We grow to look at them differently and see how the positive outweighs the negative.

Your family is the most important thing you have here on earth. Christ gave His life to bring us back to our Heavenly Father. He is our Father. We are here on this earth to create families, and make them eternal through temple work. All we do in our existence is based upon the family. In that, I see that as I grow closer to my family, I am fulfilling what I have been sent here to do… and that brings me closer to my Savior. It’s an eternal round, and Christmas is a good reminder of how it all comes together as we merely strive to be more like the child that was once born in a stable.

I know that my Savior lives and that he loves me, and each one of you... I know that as we strive to live a life full of service, being truly grateful for those around us, we will grow closer to our family, and in return, our Savior. I know that gospel brings me joy and peace, and that it teaches truth. It is the full truth here on this earth. I am grateful for the holiday season, to remind me of where my focus should be and to show gratitude to my Heavenly Father and Brother, Jesus Christ. I love him. I know that all of you, can know and love him too.

If you have questions, feel free to let me know. Otherwise, simply enjoy this holiday season, and remember that CHRIST in Christmas.

*muah*

Song of the Day: This is more like "VIDEO OF THE DAY" today... I wanted to post this video I discovered a few weeks ago of some children speaking about the meaning of Christmas to them. Whether you are Mormon or not, it's quite funny and sweet - very entertaining. Here is the Mormon Messages with Kids and Christmas. Enjoy!


A Day for DANI!!!

This next girl is someone who is quite possibly one of the funniest girls that I have ever come across in my entire life - really. She also is one of the most genuine people that I know. She doesn't sugar-coat herself, but she tells it how it is... to the point of it being refreshing and not overwhelming. She cares about people and she lets them know that they are loved and why they are appreciated. She has the amazing ability to recall little facts and moments about each relationship she has with someone - and she knows a LOT of people. However, she's the kind of person that could list something wonderful about each of her friends, make is real and sincere, and let that person know they're uniquely special. I don't know how she does it. She is a force to be reckoned with, carrying all the best intentions and work ethic to go with it. I really admire and look up to her, and I really wish that I could be more like her.

Today, my thankfulness memo is dedicated to Danielle Walton Doty!

Danielle, you are an AMAZING friend! You have grown to be someone I care deeply about and think of often. You are special - you connect with people on this amazing level. I wish I had the talents that you do. You are SO funny! I can not begin to tell you how many times just remembering a quote, conversation, facial expression, or mannerism of yours has made me just smile to myself, of laugh out loud - causing funny looks from the strangers around me. Haha! You are sincerely one of my FAVORITE people, and I wish you were closer so we could see more of each other. You're seriously amazing, and I think that baby on its way, is going to be one of the luckiest children to have a mother like you. I love you, Dani! Today, I am thankful for YOU, Dani!
*muah*

Song of the Day: There were many that I could choose, but I'll just let this one represent where it all started... I think of her whenever I hear this song. Here is, London Calling, by The Clash. Enjoy!

The Clash - London Calling
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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Another Day of Thankfulness for Josh!

This next individual is someone that has been a great friend and mentor for me during my last few years of college and after. We stumbled into each other at a party, I knew some of his friends and family, and we instantly connected as work partners on a project for BYU Athletics Department. Through the process, we became friends. He is someone I went to for advice at times and for guidance on how to be a better leader. He has some of the most incredible leadership skills I have ever seen, and I feel as though I have learned so much from him. He is a good person, a good friend, and an amazing example to me.

Today, I want to send my thankfulness memo out to Josh Reschke!

Josh, you are amazing. You are going to do SUCH amazing things in the world, and I am truly a more full person from knowing you. You inspire me in so many ways to believe in myself and to go for things - to try the impossible, and to laugh it off when you fall on your face. You have taught me what it means to live with conviction and real dedication to something, and to let your passions flow freely. You have taught me how to be happy with who I am, and to be more confidant... and I don't know that you even know you did these things. It was no specific lesson or moment. It was simply how you live and how you lead.... and how you befriended me. You are an incredible person, with so much potential - I'm SO excited to see what you do with it, cause you could do or be ANYTHING. A lot of people look up to you, Josh, and I hope you know that's because of how amazing you are, and inspiring you are. Thanks so much for taking me under your wing and being a good friend. I am thankful for YOU, Josh!
*muah*

Song of the Day: There were a few I was debating between for different reasons, but the the real answer was obvious... This one is just so "Josh." Here, is BYU's Cougar Fight Song! Remember, we know the first words... :) (A few words on this recording aren't perfect, but it's the best I could find...) Go Cougars!!! Enjoy!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Day for Three: Brooke, Amber, and Alisa!!!

This next group of girls was really important to during a time that could have been potential horrible in High School. After my move to Virginia right before my 11th school year, I felt like I had after each move while I was growing-up. I was nervous about making new friends and fitting in. I had gone to church a few times, but didn't seem to click with any of the girls there right off the bat. I think that I'm a person that people grow to love, but sometimes think is a little crazy at first. Anyway, I don't completely remember HOW we all came together, and why these girls took me under their wing, but they did. They became some of my best friends and closest confidants, and my junior year became one of my best years. I am grateful that they accepted my loud, random comments and dramatic persona, and wanted to be my friend. They are some of the most caring girls that I know.

Today, I want to send a thankfulness dedication to Brooke Wright, Amber Guthrie, and Alisa Pettitt.


First, Brooke - You have been a rock and an example for me through- out the years. You are someone who I admire and look-up to, and I am thankful for all the things that you have taught me. You taught me a lot about believing in myself and knowing I'm beautiful... It might sound dumb, but it's helped m a lot. You have this ability to inspire others, and it's quite amazing. You were the first one to really reach out to me when I was the "new kid," and I am SO thankful you did. I'm glad we have continued to b friends through the bumps and distance - I love you! You're a GOOD person Brooke... The world needs more women like you. I am thankful for YOU, Brookie-san! :)

Amber - When I think of you, I think of all the times we went for a drive in your car and sang at the top of our lungs. I think of your classic laugh, and dance moves. I think of your amazing room and how it inspired me to make my own crazy, awesome room in HS and the MANY ways you inspired me to be who I am today. You're a power-house and a fighter... you're a force to be reckoned with, and that's meant in the BEST way. You are SUCH an example of fighting for what you believe in, and standing up for yourself and others. You are an amazing and SUCH an inspiration to me still. I am thankful for YOU, Amber!

Alisa - You have such a good heart. Really, I have always been impressed with how you genuinely care for others. You have a unique ability to really love others quickly and a willingness to be a good friend. You're real. I was always so thankful for your kind words and friendship, and you ability to just be there when I needed you. You're someone I look-up to and admire. You're someone that I think of often and think of your chill attitude when I need to calm myself.... You're incredible to me. I am thankful for YOU, Alisa!
To each of you - you're amazing. Remember that in all that you do and go after - I love you so much, still. Thank you for being my friends and inspirations.
*muah*

Song of the Day: Um, this HAS to be Missy Elliot's song, Work It! Remember 2002 Homecoming? Um.... YEA. HAHAHA!!! Do the dance ladies... Love it. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Let's Hear It For The Boys!!!

These next few individuals are some of my FAVORITE teenagers in the entire universe. They are SO funny and they made working at Channing some of the best years of my life... and one of my favorite jobs. I also learned SO much from them - I learned a lot about myself, my teaching and where I could improve, and how to handle some pretty sticky situations. I also learned how to NOT handle certain situations. Haha! They were boys that let me come throw a football around with them, or shoot some baskets, and act like Bad A even though I wasn't that good. I watched them grow from kids to teenagers, and am slowly continuing to see them make some grown-up decisions. It's a bit weird, seeing kids grow up before you eyes, but it's amazing and such a privilege when they allow you to be a part of their lives.

Today, I want this thankfulness memo to be for Spencer Parker, James Richards, Jiffy Martin, and the other boys from the 2009 Eighth Grade class at Channing Hall!

You boys are amazing and I am SO thankful for your examples to me... You have a good hearts and are so dang funny. To me, you give me hope for the world - sounds cheesy, but it's true. You give me faith in society and in the parenting that parents like your have done. I am so impressed by how far each of you have come and am grateful that I got to share a section of my life with each of you. Thanks for allowing me to bug you from time to time and to call you my little studs! :) I am thankful for YOU, Jiffy, James, and Spencer!
*muah*

Song of the Day: So, in honor of these boys... let's hear it for em'! Here is Deneice Williams with Let's Hear It For the Boy! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm Thankful for Resource!

This next entry is dedicated to two women I have been thinking of a lot as I get ready to venture back to the USA. I have been privileged to have fun colleagues wherever I have worked, and these two are no exception. I respect these two women for their ability to take a hard, annoying, and draining situation and make it fun and happy. They are always willing to lend me advice or just a listening ear, and I know that we will never have a conversation that doesn't include some intense laughter. They're just two women who have become great friends to me, and I'm so thankful for all the support and love they have shown me over the past year.

Today, I want to dedicate this thankfulness memo to Debbie Olsen and Brenda Mitchell!

Debbie - You are amazing! I have seen such strength in you. We have had some tough times together, but you always find a way to grin and bear it. I have appreciated the advice you gave me so many times when I was working there, and I only hope that I can continue to come down and chat with you when I'm subbing there over the next semester. You are a GOOD person - and don't let anyone tell you different. I have seen first heart the tender and loving heart you have, and I look up to you a lot for your courage to walk your own path. You are amazing! I am thankful for YOU, Debbie!

Brenda - You are like my other mother! I hope that's not weird to you, because I know we're not "super close," but that is sincerely how I feel. You always know how to cheer me up (whether through a joke, some chocolate, or genuine, good advice), and you seem to make those around you smile. You are HILARIOUS! I mean it -you could do stand-up with your facial expressions and quick wit - it's awesome! I am so blessed to know you and to have had time to learn from you. I feel like I was a better nanny while I was here in Germany, and will be a better mom later in my life, because I was able to watch your interactions with kids. You are SUCH a great mentor and teacher - really amazing. I am thankful for YOU, Miss Brenda! :)

Sidenote: I have no pictures with you - we must remedy that at once upon my return! :)

I love you ladies and can not WAIT to see you soon to catch-up, tell jokes and stories, and eat German Chocolate...
*muah*

P.S. First, Brenda... This song will NOT be by Taylor Swift. Haha! Okay, that said, I tried to remember what songs we would always sing in the room and make fun of, but there were way too many of them! Haha... SO, I thought of THIS song and laughed to myself - listen carefully and you'll appreciate it. This is Dolly Patron's song, 9 to 5. Not sure what's up with the Disney characters, but... Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I am Thankful for Norwegians! (Plus a Few More!)

This next set of individuals are some that have only been in my life for a short time, and yet I am SO thankful for all that they have taught me. They have taught me about reaching out to others, befriending outsiders, and being genuinely invested in the gospel. I am often inspired by the effort that some people have to make to get to church or take part in activities, firesides, meetings, etc. Everyone, no matter where they are, must make an effort to be an active member of the gospel - invested in the heart, and not just in their actions. However, some people have to seem to work to be active in action more than in other places. This will give it away a bit, but I am impressed by the kindness that people showed me this past Spring when I was in Norway. I was the random girl from the USA, living in Germany, who knew one other person (from Denmark) going to the YSA Convention, and yet was taken in and given a home for the week, shown around the city, and showered with friendship the moment I stepped off the plane. I'm a fairly confident person, but I was nervous about going alone, and these people made me feel wonderful.

Today, I send my thankfulness memo to those boys and girls who helped me celebrate Norway's Independence with the 17th of Mai celebration!

A few people who really stick out to me, must be thanked a bit more personally...

Barbara - Thank you SO much for offering your home to me. You were SO kind to me, and I was a COMPLETE stranger. However, I seriously felt so connected to you instantly - that's a gift you have with people. You truly know how to help others feel love and bring them into the fold. You are an AMAZING example and I look-up to you a lot - I wish we lived closer. Remember, my home in the states is always open to you - ALWAYS. You are such an incredible and spiritually in-tune person. Thank you, again. I am thankful for YOU, Barbs!

Katarina - You simply inspire me. You are SO sweet and kind! You are SO GOOD. You have a tender and pure heart. You reach out to EVERYONE around you and are so great at looking out for those who need a friend or a helping hand. You're just one of those people that makes me automatically think of my Savior and the person that he was/is... I wish more people were like you, Katarina. :) I am thankful for YOU!

Third, Cristina and Hannah - You two are HILARIOUS! You make things so much fun and have such a great sense of humor. You really took me under your wing and I am beyond grateful for your friendship and love. You are two amazing examples to me and really hold soft spots in my heart. I feel SO blessed to know you girls! What I love most about both of you is the ability you each have to be great members of the gospel and yet genuine in who you are - I am trying to think of a better way to say this, but I can't. Haha! You aren't fake, and you're focused on the right things... It's pretty awesome. You're caring, fun, and wonderful people, and I feel blessed to know you. I am thankful for YOU, Cristina and Hannah!

Also, Mike - You were there for me when I really needed a friend. You were the perfect person to ease me into life in Germany, and I'm glad that we have continued our friendship. You are so smart and fun to be around - you have big dreams, and it's inspiring! You always give me something to think about when we talk and I know that you have great things ahead of you. You're amazing - remember that! Thanks for reaching out to me and caring about me. It means so much! Mike, I am thankful for YOU!

AND, I just can't mention Mike and that trip without mentioning, Michelle. Michelle - You are an amazing person! You are SO much fun and a kindred spirit for me. Your constant smile and laughter makes you SO easy to be around. I think it's pretty awesome how easy you are for any and everyone to be around. You just make people comfortable, and feel important - what a talent for people you have been given! You have a passionate heart, and you use that passion to care for others. I am SO thankful to call you a friend. Michelle, I am thankful for YOU!

To all others who were there for me to get to know while up in Norway, I am thankful for you and all of your examples and created laughter. Thanks for putting up with my "man voice," and loving me anyway. Haha! I think the world of all of you and am thankful for a GREAT experience while I was there... I'm kinda in love with Norwegians.
*muah*

Song of the Day: I know that not all of you are from Norway (I completely respect and love Spain and Denmark too - haha!), but I am giving this shout-out to those who shared this experience with me. So, here is a little piece of my time in Norway with our Boom-Chicka-Boom cheer! :) Enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

On the 13th Day of Christmas...

The nest person that has been on my mind a lot is someone with possibly the happiest demeanor I have ever witnessed. I'm not exaggerating either - I know I tend to do that. However, I am completely honest and "spot-on" in stating that she has a positive aura about her at all times. Even in times that she is angry, frustrated, or sad, she is always seen smiling - she is always seen handing out hugs to everyone standing near. She's like the world's own Disney character, but not annoying. Haha! For real - she just shines with happiness and zest for life. She has a GOOD heart, and her mind is in the right place. I think out of all the people that I know, she in sincerely one of the most genuinely kind, optimistic, and Christ-like people that I know. People just LOVE being around her, because she carries a special light. She is amazing, and I feel SO privileged and honored to call her a friend.

Today, I honor in thankfulness, Jeanette Clayson!

Jeanette, you are SUCH an outstanding person. I look up to you SO much, and I wish I could be more like you. I wish that I had you strength and positive nature inside of me at all times... The world would be brighter if more people were like you - it would be better. You have changed so many people's lives and I know you're completely oblivious to the fact, because it's happened through being yourself. You are a standard-bearer, an example, and a life-line to many. I am always impressed with you... and who you have become. We do NOT see each other enough, and I hope that changes once we're back in UT, because I truly consider you a close friend and confidant. Thanks for everything - Love you, girl. Today, I am thankful for YOU, Jeanette!
*muah*

Song of the Day: Okay, so I couldn't quite pin a song that was so "us," or tied to one specific memory. So, I sat back and thought about her... What song would make me think of, Jeanette? It seems cheesy, but the answer was obvious. If you ever saw someone who could make you believe that all your dreams could come true, her persona gives JUST that vibe. Here is the Disney Classic, When You Wish Upon a Star. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On the 14th Day of Christmas...

Tonight I spent time talking to this individual, via Skype, and spent half the time just laughing! She and I have been close on and off over the years, and I really have grown to love her so much. She is hilarious, and always knows how to cheer up those around her with her wit and comical responses. She is SO intelligent and really knows how to deal with people. She has a good heart, and really loves to help others when they're in need... and her advice is always pretty classic. She tells it how it is... and she has no fear holding her back. It is SO refreshing! I love how she pushes me to just GO for things and say what I believe or feel. She's really great at encouraging others, and has taught me to appreciate my own spunk and spirit.

Today, I write this thankfulness memo to, Melissa Plowman!

You are fabulous, Melissa! You make me smile on the worst (and best) of days, and you make life FUN. You have become someone I really look-up to and appreciate. You have taught me a lot about being true to myself and not being scared to "be me." I think that those kind of people mean a lot to me... You are a good friend, and I am SO thankful we have recently been reunited in our friendship. I respect you and love you a lot - you're amazing! Today, I am thankful for YOU, Melissa! :)
*muah*

Song of the Day: Um... Let me use three words: dance, door, DAAAAAAANG! Yea, we're hot. Here is Hilary Duff's song (and VIDEO!), With Love. I might have watched the video twice just now... maybe. CLASSSIC. Enjoy!