Wednesday, November 27, 2013

gratitude brings happiness

First, I feel the need to take back anything I ever said about not being stressed about school this year. I am a walking zombie all the time because I am so tired because I was up all hours doing homework. And it would be one thing if I always just put homework off until the evening, but I don't. I am literally that busy and I am doing homework every waking moment I am at home.

SO that is why I haven't blogged in over two weeks. Several of my hobbies are being severely neglected, actually. And I don't even have time to read BOOKS other than on the weekends. And I love reading. In fact, Saturday I didn't finish my english project until 11pm, and I had a book that had been overdue for over a week (and could not be renewed) that I hadn't started but really wanted to read, so I stayed up until 4:30 finishing it.

Okay, I really have no idea why I just wrote all of that. But I don't think I'll erase it. Anyways, the POINT is that I am so loving this break for Thanksgiving! I spent all day Monday and Tuesday doing ALL my homework so it is not looming over my head! And today I cleaned my bathroom and bedroom AND vacuumed out and washed my car. I probably haven't vacuumed out my car in months and it's probably been at least a month since my bathroom was cleaned. Gross, I know, but it makes you appreciate a clean bathroom more!!!

We are also decorating for Christmas on Friday! And watching White Christmas, one of only two old movies that I love (the other is Calamity Jane)! I am so excited!

Now that all of that is out of the way, let's talk about Thanksgiving. My very first post on this blog was a Thanksgiving post, you know. That was two years ago!! That means that I was fourteen when I wrote some of these posts. I feel the need to point that out every so often just so that you don't judge me too much!! :) I always wonder what people think of me who only knew me in like seventh grade or something. Wow, I have changed so much!

I was driving (in my slippers, mind you, to preserve my pristine car) to the library this afternoon and the whole city was so busy because, you know, Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I love LOVE things like that. I am really bad at describing it, when I first tried to explain my thoughts to my mom, she just stared at me like I was crazy.
But I feel like it is such a human thing to go out and buy last minute turkeys and pumpkin pies, the same thing happens the day before the Super Bowl and on Christmas Eve. It is just one of those things that brings people together and it is neat to see things that affect a whole society like that. It makes me appreciate humanity and the people around me a bit more, and it is really hard to explain why.
It's like when I pass someone who has a parking pass to my high school hanging on their mirror, and so do I, and I just kinda take a second to appreciate the mutual, unspoken camaraderie I feel towards that person, even though we only have that one thing in common.
It's also kinda like when our ward had missionary week and there was a night when all of the youth were being hosted at different homes for dinner, and it felt like the whole ward was outside either walking to others' houses or giving people rides or welcoming visitors.

I just love stuff like that, when everyone is just out being friends, participating in something that brings them together and defines their social group, even if they don't realize it.

Okay. I am going to stop rambling and making myself sound dumb and get to the video. Sound good?

It probably isn't surprising to you that being grateful can make you happy.

When you see everything as a gift, you are more joyful, more compassionate, have kinder thoughts, are closer to God, and are, quite simply, a more lovely person in general.  

Thanksgiving is a wonderful day to be grateful, but we should also practice gratitude all year long, not just during the holiday season.

What things are you grateful for? How are you going to express your gratitude, like the people in the above video did?
If you are grateful, you are happy. But perhaps other people will be happy, too!

Let us resolve to more often recognize the people, places, and things God has given us - and let us express gratitude! 

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have a happy Thanksgiving! And as we jump into the holidays, which I am very excited to do, please never forget the reason for the season!

Love, Haley

Sunday, November 10, 2013

serve often, judge never, love always.

I remember when I was in school in seventh grade and one of my teachers was telling the class something about how he knew some homeless people in Salt Lake City. One of the kids asked about giving them money and our teacher said "oh no - you don't give them money." He said that you would be smarter to give money to organized charities.

Well… I totally see where he's coming from. He's not the only one who thinks this, and I see why people doubt that their money is going to the right person and will be used for the right purpose.

But you know what I think? It's my responsibility to help others. God didn't bless me with all that I have just so I could sit here and do nothing.

Shipping your money off to charities is awesome. It really is awesome if you are doing that. Many people are not able to and probably even more just choose not to. I'm sure your money is doing amazing things.

Maybe I'm just selfish. I like to see people's reactions! I like to walk away from serving an individual with that good feeling that I helped someone with something specific.

But still, I see nothing wrong with giving money to homeless people.

EVEN IF they aren't really homeless. EVEN IF they are just going to buy drugs. EVEN IF it just"encourages them."


Like I said before, it is my responsibility to do everything I can to help others and serve God's children. I don't care what they do with the money; that is their responsibility, and I guess they will be held accountable for their decision.

I'm tired of judging others, of distributing my acts of service like precious nuggets of gold that I can only spare so many of.

I don't have a hundred dollars to hand out to people. Goodness, I wish I did!
BUT there is work for me to do. There are lives for me to change, even if it is just through simple acts.

And I know I should be thinking of Every. Person. I. See. the way God sees them. If I can't, I should at least pretend that I can. If you tell yourself something over and over again, you start to believe it.
Think of how you would see people - see life! - if you always tried to think the things Jesus would.

Last week we had Evening of Excellence for the young women in our ward, which is where we kinda celebrate the things the girls have accomplished throughout the year. The room and setup were darling, and there was a cute black and white picture framed of every girl in the ward on display next to some objects each girl had chosen to showcase that represents her.
Anyways, it was darling and I was just sitting there thinking how cute it all looked and how cute the pictures were and how close I feel to all those girls when this incredible feeling came over me. For just a few moments, I feel like I was seeing those girls the way God does. It was like this overwhelming feeling of love and pride at all their talents washed over me. It only lasted a moment, and I don't know how I got so lucky or what I did to invite the Spirit into my heart so strongly at that moment, but I loved it.

It made me realize how much differently I would see the world if I just thought those things on my own all the time.

I know that when I let the Spirit into my heart, try my best to serve others ALWAYS in any way that I can, and remind myself to always see the good in others, my life will be exponentially happier and more fulfilling.

I love God and I feel so blessed right now. I know that He wants me to feed His sheep and help others return to Him. So this I'll do, because I want nothing more than to be His servant.

Have an awesome week guys, and commit right now to serve often, judge never, and love always.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

no contradiction

*make the video full-screen. it's far superior that way. just sayin'.

It is so interesting to me that people think science and religion contradict. Look, I'm no genius, but I have a pretty basic knowledge of many aspects of science - biology, chemistry, and physics especially, since I have taken all three in the last couple years. (Chemistry is boss, am I right?! Loved it.) :)
And I feel exceedingly more learned in religion than in science. But I still have a lot to learn about both!

But one thing I DO know is that religion and science explain each other beautifully, and the more I learn about one, the more faith I have in the other.
Make sense?

My physics textbook says the COOLEST thing. I came across the neatest paragraph when reading through my textbook a while ago and took a picture of it so I wouldn't forget it (this was probably back on like the second day of school, because the first week of school was pretty much the only time I actually read more than five words at a time from that textbook).

Oh, and this is a college textbook... Conceptual Physics, the Weber State custom edition. I guess that detail doesn't really change anything, but for some reason it seems cooler to me that I was reading for a college physics class I'm taking at Weber State.

Okay. Are you ready to hear the actual paragraph??

"When we study the nature of light later in this book, we will treat light first as a wave and then as a particle. To the person who knows a little bit about science, waves and particles are contradictory; light can be only one or the other, and we have to choose between them. But to the enlightened person, waves and particles complement each other and provide a deeper understanding of light. In a similar way, it is mainly people who are either uninformed or misinformed about the deeper natures of both science and religion who feel that they must choose between believing in religion and believing in science. Unless one has a shallow understanding of either or both, there is no contradiction in being religious and being scientific in one's thinking."

Wow! Right?!

The book says a lot of other cool things about how it's okay to not know the answers to everything - the author even says that "an important message in science... is that uncertainty is acceptable."
Even scientists don't claim to have all the answers.
The gospel gives me answers! But still, some things we will never know or fully understand until we leave this life.
But you know what? We know a lot now! When we keep an open mind and have faith in God and the answers He gives us - we learn for ourselves that they are true.

When sitting down to write this post, I really didn't plan on having it all about science and religion, haha.

My point is that everything we have here on earth - all the knowledge you have ever learned, every experience you go through, every little thing that was created - works together.

"Art is about cosmic beauty. Science is about cosmic order. Religion is about cosmic purpose. " 
-Paul G. Hewitt

What an incredible thing creation is!
How amazing it is that God had so many factors in mind when he made the Plan of Salvation!

Everything is the way that it is because that's how it should be!

YOU are YOU because YOU are perfect!

We each have our own thread that, in the grand scheme of things, is interwoven with everyone else's to form a beautiful tapestry that blankets the earth.

God doesn't make mistakes. Just like a machine, the world has no extra parts.

As far as learning is concerned, it is up to you to discern between truth and error.
But in the end, never forget that two true things do not and can not contradict each other.

I believe in the atom! haha! I think the human body is amazing!
I also believe in God and His timing and His creation!

God is truly the greatest scientist of us all.

A truly knowledgeable person has a well-rounded understanding of many subjects and understands that all things work together for the good of the world.

And God is in charge of it all!

What a lovely existence - to be in the hands of a God who understands so much!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

everything about fiji!

I feel like I never really did a very good post about my trip to Fiji. I know I've shared a few pictures, but I wanted to document my trip on here a bit more thoroughly!

Note: I didn't take all these pictures! Our group made a Google Plus account and we have a group on Facebook so everyone has shared their pics. And pretty much everyone else's pictures were cooler than mine. So yeah, just thought I should put that out there.

AND there are a TON of pictures and it's really hard to narrow down which ones to share on here. So you will be probably getting a reeeeally long post that still has only a fraction of the pictures I could share.

Without further adieu:

DAY 1 (JULY 2):
Most definitely a day full of anticipation! And so much last minute packing! It took me literally weeks to get everything I needed to take on my trip. Oh and to get some shots. Joy.

I headed to the airport at 4pm and met some kids there who would be on my trip. We just kinda hung out at the airport before flying to LA. Once in LA, we checked our bags with FIJI AIRWAYS and met up with our entire group at a McDonalds at the airport. It was quite a wait before we had to board our flight for Fiji at 11:30, so we played cards and mostly ate food.

The flight was SO long. Well, it was like eleven hours. And I can never sleep on airplanes. So yeah, long.

DAY 2:
We got to Fiji really early in the morning - about 5am. We picked up our bags and got on the bus. We rode on the same bus to get everywhere during the trip. Our bus driver was named Reese and he was awesome. After touring around the town a bit, we headed to the docks to get on this little boat that we all barely squished in. We took a sickening two hour (ish) boat ride to this little island called Waya Lai Lai to do some touristy things for a couple of days. Gosh that country is BEAUTIFUL!

1. Packing. My backpack was all I took to Waya Lai Lai - needless to say it was stuffed!
2. Officially a passport holder!
3. Fiji airways!!
4. Waiting/meeting new people at the airport!
5. On the airplane. We must have just boarded, because those girls look happy! That airplane sucked the happiness right out of you!
6. Arriving at the Nadi, Fiji airport. Those men in the picture were playing music and singing to welcome us!
7. First view of Fiji outside the airport.
8. On the party bus!
9. Boat ride to Waya Lai Lai

Our first day on Waya Lai Lai we spent relaxing and enjoying the beach. Imagine the most gorgeous beach that your mind could ever possibly create. I was there! :) The local people welcomed us to their island and they sang - and sang and sang. Even as I fell asleep that first night I could hear them down in the village singing. It was awesome.

1. Another pic of the boat ride
2. The little bures the people lived in
3. the beach
4. hammock/the beach
5. Waya Lai Lai custom canoe!
6. After the hike!
7. Playing a game of volleyball
8. Bonfire the first night
9. Where we slept. All the girls in one room - with mosquito nets to keep the bugs away!

DAY 3:
Got up and had breakfast before going snorkeling! The ocean was so incredibly beautiful! Oh and I swam with a shark!! Whoop! Then we rode around to the other side of the island to visit the school there. We ate there and played with the kids and they showed us around their school before doing a cute little performance for us where they danced and sang songs. We gave them some school supplies and it was really cool because you could tell how much their little school needed them.
After getting back from the school, some women on the island taught us how to weave bracelets out of palm leaves.
That night, the local men and women put on a cultural performance for us. It was super fun to see them dance and sing and show us their traditions.

1. Yes, that is me on that little mountain thing. 2. Cute little starfish 3. All of us out snorkeling 4. Underwater pics! 5. Me in the water 6. Kids jumping off the rock 7. Random picture of me in the water 8. Kids at the school 9. Michelle reading a book to some school boys 10. Me with a cute kid in the classroom! 11. Kids dancing for us! 12. Cute kiddos 13. Girl looking at this cute mobile 14. Making bracelets out of palm leaves 15. Women doing a cultural dance for us 16. Us joining in on the dancing! 17. Men dancing for us 18. I wrote "fiji" in the sand! 19. The village people singing to us as we left the island for the last time.

DAY 4: 
After eating breakfast and hanging out for a little bit, we packed up and left Waya Lai Lai. What a great time we had on that island! Once we got back to the mainland, we stopped at a gas station to get snacks and stuff before making the 5 hour bus ride to Suva! The only American foods they had at the gas station were Pringles and some types of soda! I'm not exactly the most adventurous eater in the world, so after all the cultural food we ate on the island, I was so ready for some Pringles! haha!
We made it to our hotel - there were four or five to a room. Think of the hotel as the oldest motel six you have ever seen. That was kinda the quality. All the hallways and the eating place were outside, but we stayed in these little apartment rooms. At least the bathrooms were better than they had been on the island! There were no slugs in them! Haha!
It was great. We just kinda spent the night unpacking, playing games, and eating. I took a warm shower! The showers there were kinda unpredictable. Usually you might get a couple minutes of your shower to be warm. I must have gotten lucky that night!

DAY 5: 
Day 5 was a Sunday. We went to an internet cafe to email home. It was so fun. I got to tell my family all about what we had been doing, and I knew they were anxious to hear! It felt like I hadn't talked to them in forever!
After an hour at the internet cafe, we went to church. The ward actually had quite a few young women. Maybe like 15 or so, but I think I expected less. Most of the men wore sulus to church, the - for lack of better words - skirts you see a lot of the men wearing in Fiji. It was fast and testimony meeting, and there were a lot of funny stories told over the pulpit.
Oh, they speak english in Fiji. They speak Fijian too, but most of the people also know english, and that's what they spoke at church.
Also, if you say "good afternoon" or something like that to start out your testimony or talk, the congregation repeats it back to you. We should start that here!
After church we had a late lunch and then went to see the Suva temple. It was so pretty. We spent some time on the grounds just reading scriptures and writing in our journals. It started to rain, so we took shelter under a roof at the front of the temple and carried on!
We had a fireside that night and the youth of the Suva 3rd ward (the ward we went to church and did activities with) sang a bunch of songs for us.
The bishop announced that he would be showcasing his talents for us the next week and that we wouldn't want to miss it because usually his CD is really expensive! Haha! He also announced that the HEFY kids would be doing a musical number next week and that we are really good. He talked us up big time, it was funny.

Random note: The phrase "Fiji Time" pops up a lot there. It means go slow, relax, take your time, etc. I definitely liked living on Fiji Time!

1. All the girls at the church
2. the boys
3. Suva, Fiji temple
4. Me in front of the temple
5. Me with Angie and (I think) Ruth at the church, two primary girls. We had refreshments after the fireside.
6. All of the kids at the temple

DAY 6:
We finally started work projects! We split into work groups and talked a little about what we would be doing. We made the 45 minute drive to the little village of Nakawauru, where we would be working.
Because it was the first day, we first participated in a ceremony welcoming us into their village. It involved the leaders of the village, a lot of talk in Fijian, and clapping. Anyways, when it was over we were welcomed to work in their village! :)
Each of the work groups got a house that we would be building a bathroom for. We worked throughout the day and took a break for lunch and also a couple short breaks for "tea time" - snacks with the family we were working for that the women had made.
We got so dirty working. I felt like my clothes and shoes were ruined after day 1! The kids in the village were so cute and flocked to us when we offered candy and prizes!
The men in the village worked alongside us as we built the toilets and septic tanks. After day 1 was finished, we had dug out the bathroom and had a lot of cinder blocks stacked. We mixed a TON of cement by hand over the course of making these bathrooms! We also dug a hole for the septic tank on the first day.
When we got back to the hotel, we showered (heavenly), ate, then went to the store. We bought snacks - I pretty much bought a ton of Oreos and Pringles - and the boys bought sulus to wear to church the next week.
We went to Family Home Evening with the ward at the church building. We played lots of funny games. A bishopric member joked about how it takes ten minutes to sing the Spirit of God (he was right)!
After the games were over, we had refreshments, then our HEFY group went to the chapel to practice our musical numbers for church the next week.
Oh, and when we were at the supermarket, a lady saw that my shirt said "utah" and asked if I was LDS. She said she had been to Utah!

1. the house my group built a toilet for 2. random pig in the village! 3. community center where we ate lunch and gathered for other reasons 4. I think they called him David 5. tea time 6. the food we ate 7. me with Junior and Harrilea (totally made up the spelling on that) 8. lunchtime 9. working on the bathroom 10. kids chilling in the wheelbarrows 11. Junior making a face 12. me with - I can't remember his name, but isn't he cute?! 13. girls sawing a board 14. Me with David 15. FHE with the ward 16. Cute kid after he got a balloon animal!

DAY 7:
Another work day. A bunch of the HEFY kids (definitely not me) tried really hot chilis during lunch. Their faces were hysterical. The Fijians really loved the treats we brought. I think the adults asked for a dumdum sucker more often than the kids did!
The family we built for was so cute. There was a 79 year old woman named Mary. There was also her daughter, Kaycee, and Kaycee's two children. A lot of people came and went, so I'm not sure if there were more people living in that little house, there probably were!
At the end of the day, we were running a little behind, so some of the women who lived in our house came out and helped us. This was really unusual, so it was fun to see!
After getting home and showering, we went to get pizza! Reese, our bus driver, came with us.
After we ate, we went to play volleyball with the ward. After volleyball, we practiced our musical numbers again.

DAY 8:
Another work day. After working, our group went to see Despicable Me 2, which had just come out in theaters. After the movie, we went back to the hotel and played cards.

Random note: My Fijian name is Helena.

DAY 9:
After working, we played sports with the ward again. The youth of the ward love sports, and they go to the church building and play every morning from 5am-7am before school. That is so crazy!

1. peek-a-boo! 2. some of the village people 3. playing around with the huge leaves! 4. getting pizza 5. kids reaching for candy 6. hot chilis!! 7. Posing with a minion at the theater 8. seeing Despicable Me 2 9. goofing off at the hotel! 10. mixing cement - for the millionth time! 11. getting backs cracked during lunch 12. cute kiddos 13. at the worksite 14. arm wrestling during lunch 15. with Shivani at the church 16. playing sports at the church
1. Reese is a stud. 2. so cute! 3. at the worksite 4. Junior hanging upside down 5. getting some rest after a long day! 6. with some village girls 7. toilet in progress 8. with a village boy 9. admiring some of the pictures we had taken of them. They don't get their picture taken very often! 10. with village kids 11. I think this was when a boy from our group touched his eye after eating a chili. It takes ten kids to administer eyedrops! 12. Some of the locals would get rides into the city with us 13. septic tank in progress 14. random picture of the city 15. with some kids 16. we ate coconuts!

1. Devin and I working 2. Pic with Junior 3. the expressions on these kids' faces makes me laugh. 4. I'm not sure he should be playing in a septic tank! haha! 5. tea time - showing off some of the jewelry that we brought for the family to play with :) 6. Working on the roof - my favorite.

DAY 10:
We worked in the village all day - I told one of the men there that his son was so cute and I wanted to take him home with me. He said that a kid from the last HEFY group to be in the village asked him the same thing but that he could never give him up! :) After working, we went back to the hotel and showered and got ready to go to the temple. We spent a lovely night doing baptisms for the dead. The temple there is just so darn pretty! After baptisms, we went back to the hotel, ate dinner, and played cards until bedtime.


DAY 11: 
Day 11 was a Saturday, so we didn't go to the village. We drove like 45 minutes to get to a member's house to go net fishing and hang out on the beach. Net fishing didn't take too long, and we certainly brought up some interesting fish! We hung out and found about a million hermit crabs. We also played volleyball and ate lunch there before leaving to go zip lining. We literally went zip lining in a rainforest. It was BEAUTIFUL.
We went to McDonald's for dinner. I seriously looked forward to this all week. I mean, Big Macs may be way more expensive in Fiji, but it was delicious comfort food for me.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel and got ready for a dance that we had with the ward's youth.
What a fun day!

 1. pulling the nets in 2. puffer fish! 3. Hanging out at the house 4. the whole clan 5. fish we brought in 6. climbing a lopsided palm tree 7. another picture of Mrs. Puff 8. hermit crab 9. with yet another really cute kid 10. so. many. hermit crabs. 11. this guy was so so strong. Seriously, look at those muscles. 12. Made it to the top! 13. About to go zip lining! 14. zip lining high above the ground 15. at McDonald's. yayayayay. 16. the church we had all our activities at.

1. with the ward missionaries 2. at the dance 3. some of the guys at the dance 4. me and Daniel

DAY 12:
Sunday again, we went to the internet cafe to email home. Sydney hacked into my college board account (didn't have the username or password - still not sure how that happened, haha) to tell me I got a 4 on the AP world history test. yay! I read emails and wrote a really long email home. It was so fun. We went to church, and the HEFY kids participated in sacrament meeting. A couple of our kids gave talks, and a couple other kids and I bore testimonies. After sacrament meeting, all the members sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." It was great spiritual feel-goodness. I was sad to be leaving the ward.
After church we went back to the hotel, changed into comfortable clothes, and did a few activities as a group. We passed around papers and wrote compliments to each other, and we also played a charades game.
That night, we went to a fireside at the church. We sang and some of the ward members spoke.

DAY 13:
Monday was a light work day because we did a whole lot of painting. The bathrooms were finally starting to look finished.
That night, we split into groups and went to ward members' homes to do FHE. We got there and didn't expect to have the lesson, we thought they were teaching us! Turns out we were wrong! haha! So we just shared thoughts about keeping your standards and we each shared some stories. A boy in our group shared this story about keeping his standards, but it had to do with rugby, so all the Fijians caught in the end was that he played rugby. They love rugby. The family that we had FHE with shared some interesting things with us. They said that in New Zealand, rugby is not played on Sundays at a national level because there are some really good LDS players on the teams who don't want to play on Sundays. Cool!

Random notes: the Fijians recognized just about every conference talk we mentioned. Fijians always seemed to pray really quietly. Also, the person who leads the music when we sing at church functions always sings a few bars for everyone before we start so that everyone knows what song we are singing. Yeah, I could never do that.

We also found out that it was going to cost each of the youth $30 Fijian dollars (like $20 here) to go to youth conference this year, and they were having to do a ton of fundraisers because the youth's families didn't have enough money. That made me so sad!
Later in the week, a bunch of the HEFY kids contributed a little bit of money to their youth conference fund. It felt good to help out!

DAY 14:
We completely finished our bathroom on this day! Because our group finished a little early, we were able to go over and help another group who was behind. I got so sticky with paint, and it was so hard to get off. Even after a shower, you still had paint on your skin.
Some of the villagers caught a mongoose in this little trap they made, cooked it, and ate it. It was so gross looking. I did not eat it!
We went over to a school in a nearby village to give them some school supplies. A boy in our group decided to do his eagle project while we were in Fiji, so that is what he did, he put together and organized the delivery of a bunch of kits of school supplies to bring to the school.
There were so. many. kids. And if you pulled out a sucker or something to give to one little kid, fifty more would run up and literally tackle you for whatever you were giving out. It was insane!
We went around to the classrooms - they were so cute! And we hung out with the kids some and danced with them, playing this little game they enjoy.
It was all super fun.
One of the Fijian men said something special to me this day. He said that what we were doing would go down in the history books of their village. He expressed to me how grateful everyone was, and especially how great it was that the 79 year old in our house would finally get a toilet. It was really neat to hear.
After working, we went to the botanical gardens and spent some time there, each of us sharing something that stood out to us on our trip and what we learned.
After that, we went to play sports with the ward.
After our evening devotional (we had devotionals every night and morning), we packed up most of our clothes and decided what we would want to donate to the village in the morning. It was important to remember that even though our work clothes and shoes felt ruined to us, the people in Fiji would really appreciate them.

 1. we etched our names in the finished septic tank 2. yay! about done! 3. kids at the school sitting in a circle 4. delivering bags of school supplies 5. one of the finished bathrooms 6. putting together school supply bags 7. at the botanical gardens 8. me with my name on the septic tank! 9. our finished bathroom! 10. me with Joe and a couple of his kids 11. the mongoose 12. the cutest kindergarten classroom 13. me with some of the school girls 14. group of us at the school 15. finished bathroom and a bunch of the people who worked on it! 16. boy dancing in the middle of the circle at the school
1. school kids 2. a bunch of us at the church after sports 3. Mary enjoying her new bathroom with some of her younger relatives! 4. the workers + the family that lived there - plus whoever wanted to be in the picture! haha!

DAY 15:
What a day. Before going to the village, we went to the store to get gifts for the families. They also gave us gifts in return! We were given some clothes, sulus, dresses, etc. We played some soccer with the kids with a new soccer ball they had received.
After exchanging gifts with our families, everyone went to the community center where we had a sort of closing ceremony. We ate, and the villagers sang songs for us. We sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" to the villagers. They have all these cool, cultural farewell songs, so it was cool that we had a song to sing for them too. No one in the village was LDS, but a lot of them were Christian. Maybe some of them had heard the song before, but I don't think so.
We said our goodbyes, and lots of tears were shed.
One of the village's leaders told us that we had represented our country well and that we represented Jesus Christ well. It was super neat.
We pretty much drove home in silence. Reese sensed the mood and didn't play any music, which was incredibly unlike him! Everyone was so sad to be leaving behind these people that we had grown to know and love as we served them.
We finished packing our bags before going to the church at seven. The ward had a cultural celebration planned for us. We danced, watched the Fijians dance, and ate dinner. They said that since we saw some of their cultural dances, now we could show them ours!
Ummm... do we have cultural dances? I guess we could have done a line dance or something! We just did an EFY dance that a bunch of us knew and called it good! :)
We had refreshments and the ward sang us one more song before we left. It was called Isa Lei, which is a traditional farewell song they have there. It was the third time we had heard it. We heard it when we left Waya Lai Lai, and it was also one of the songs the villagers sang to us earlier that same day. Now the ward was singing it?! So basically that song reminds me of all the sad moments of saying goodbye. It makes me happy too, though, because it reminds me of all the good times we had. You can listen to it here.
After saying goodbye to the ward, we went back to the hotel and stayed up really late talking and hanging out. I couldn't believe we were leaving the next day!

 1. some snacks we picked up while at the store! 2. exchanging gifts with our family 3. playing soccer - that's Reese in the green shirt. 4. necklaces made of leaves and flowers that were given to us 5. kids doing a little dance for us 6. Joe's wife (who we always just called "momma") made this beautiful dress! 7. Our work group in our cultural garb 8. closing kava ceremony 9. some HEFY kids dancing to the music. We blended right in with the Fijians in our new clothes! 10. the last supper 11. a bunch of us girls 12. Some of Joe's family waving goodbye 13. the village seeing us off 14. ward youth dancing for us 15. more ward boys doing a dance 16. another cultural dance - this one by the women in the ward. A couple girls from our group learned this dance with them a few days earlier and performed it with them (in case you were wondering why there was a blonde in the picture!)

1. a few of us starting out the EFY dance. The rest of us joined in moments after. 2. a bunch of us with Shivani 3. me with a couple of the young women's leaders 4. me with the bishop

DAY 16:
On our last day in Fiji, we went shopping for souvenirs! We went to a few different places; some things were bought at a retail store, others we bartered for at these little markets. It was super fun, I do love me some shopping! I spent so much money buying souvenirs for my family and for myself! haha! We ate lunch at the food court in the supermarket. I bought myself a huge piece of chocolate cake.
After we bought our souvenirs and crammed them into our bags, we started out the five hour drive back to Nadi. A couple of our trip leaders were staying in Suva, so we had to leave them behind! It was sad! We had great trip leaders! We were all really tired on the drive back to Nadi, but it was super hard to sleep on the bus because it was so bumpy.
When we got to Nadi, we stopped and got pizza for dinner before going to the airport. We had to wait a while before our flight left late at night. We saw a couple missionaries at the airport who were leaving to go home! Eventually we boarded the plane and made the long flight home. The timing was all super weird because even though we left Fiji really late Thursday night, we arrived in LA at about 1pm on Thursday!
The line to get through customs was really long, and we saw more missionaries there who were arriving home! Oh and I met Lana Del Rey. I don't even listen to her very often, but I know a couple of her songs so I got a picture with her. More for everybody else than for me, haha. I have a couple of friends who like her.
We claimed our bags and said goodbye to most of our group. It was sad, but not too bad because we had plans to meet up again and have a reunion!
We had to wait a few hours before our plane going back to Salt Lake City boarded. I flew home with three other people from our group. Everyone else had split off to fly different places or fly different airlines. I pretty much just ate McDonald's. yum.

At home, my family was waiting for me at the airport! We went to Coldstone on our way home! It was so fun to tell my family about my trip and give them the souvenirs I had bought them. As soon as we got home, I showed them all my pictures. I went to bed so late, even though I had been up for who knows how long!

1. one of the markets we went to 2. shopping for trinkets! 3. kava shop we saw 4. there were a lot of masks bought! 5. picture with Reese and the party bus 6. long, tiring drive 7. we felt the need to take a picture with Fiji water while in Fiji. They actually sold a lot of it there. 8. hanging out at the airport in Nadi 9. just after arriving in LA 10. me with Lana Del Rey

I miss Fiji so much! I was truly so sad to leave! I learned so much there and this experience gave me a different perspective and reminded me that I am so lucky and that it is very important and so worth it to serve others. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to travel, also! Tell your kids to save up for a HEFY trip! (go to!) I really wish I could go again, but I'm pretty sure I won't be able to save up again. I got lucky last year because I was working a lot and got donations from some generous friends. But whether I get to go again or not, I wouldn't trade my experience for anything! It was a truly once in a lifetime trip that I will look back on forever!

So there you have it! (If you even read this far down - I know this post is so long.) I'm so glad it's documented. And I'm so glad I got to make some awesome friends and that I have these memories.

Some of us met up about a month later. We hung out and stayed the night at some of the kids' homes before going to see Devin's farewell the next morning. He left for the Philippines on his mission only about a month after we got back from Fiji!

This was us at Devin's farewell at the end of August!

And one more thing!
If you've read all this, you have to spend a few minutes and watch the following video. Lauren, a girl on our trip, is responsible for many of the awesome pictures we have from Fiji, and she took lots of little videos during the trip and compiled them into the following video. It is so awesome! Just watch it! 

FIJI from Lauren Jackson on Vimeo.

Amazing, right? She is so talented!

Okay. This post took me literally hours to write. Wow. There goes my whole night and my good night's sleep I was looking forward to. haha, just kidding. I'll go to bed now. Hope you enjoyed! I'll be back soon, check out my last post here!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

we'll all get there, eventually.

I think it's human nature to constantly compare ourselves to others.
Often times seeing how great everyone else's lives are is disheartening, even annoying.

We see all the incredible accomplishments of others and sometimes it is hard to feel happy for those people, because really we just feel jealous or want that person to know that we achieve things too.
Am I making sense?

Why does it annoy us so much that people brag about their lives sometimes? Why do we even feel the need to brag?

The truth is, nobody's life is perfect. Maybe someone feels the need to brag about their kid's good grades or something like that because it's the only happy thing that they can cling to right now.

In any case, we are all going through different things in life, and we need to learn to feel happy for others!

In the words of Jeffrey R. Holland:

"Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those."

Surely we also look at our neighbors and see how well they are living the gospel - how they seem to have everything together. 
Don't short-change yourself and the good things you are doing!

I'll bet you've totally mastered a part of your life that your neighbor really has no idea how to handle yet. 
We all have our own talents, our own experiences that have made us strong in different ways.
Don't forget that in the end, we are all in this together. We are a team. 

And we'll all get there, eventually. 

One day we will all be perfected in Christ. You will see that all along, your best really was good enough. 

In the meantime, let's learn to be happy for others, try our hardest, and accept that others are doing the same. 

You've got this.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

so much beauty

There is a lot going on in the world right now, a lot of negative things. And it's true, society looks not so pretty sometimes. 
Every person gets to choose what to make of their life. And some choose to do really bad things. 
Probably most people, though, are just mediocre. We all have selfish tendencies, we are all rude sometimes, maybe more than we realize, and we've all been on the receiving side of rude comments. Sometimes it just feels like the world is feeding us crap. 

But there is so much good. So much to be cheerful about. 
There are the exceptional people, the inspiring news stories, and there is always a silver lining in even the worst of situations. 

Society is still overwhelmingly good! The world is not against you!

For every rude, seemingly uncompassionate person, there are two people who are kind, happy and trying to do what's right. 

The world is full of intense beauty if you seek it out. 

There are marriages that make it. There are young people who will do incredible things with their life. There are good, honest politicians. 

When you change the way you look at the world, it becomes a whole new place to you. 

When you rise above, as you look at the big picture and have a joyful outlook on life, your life begins to change.

It takes practice to see even the bad things in life as brilliant learning opportunities.

It takes practice to see the good in people the rest of the world sees as bad.

But, like most things, practice makes perfect!

I know I've shared this video before, but I just love it. It makes you feel so happy for the world and the incredible things people are achieving here.

When we look at things from a worldly, narrow-minded perspective, it seems like there is a lot wrong with the world.
And... there is, I guess. But don't let the negative outweigh the positive.

When you notice all the good things, like the things shown in the above video, it is easy to see how God's hand is in everything.

This is His world, we are His people. And His hand is always around us, and if you notice God's hand, your life will be touched in incredible ways, and you will begin to always see the world as a beautiful place.

Many say they have no hope for humanity. But when you stop to remember the purpose of life, stop to remember your potential, stop to remember that God is always looking out for His children, and that his children are good people, it's hard not to have faith in humanity.

Rise above. Seek for the good in the world. Be the good in someone else's world.

Your life will be so much more happy and fulfilling.
When you think you have it all, do you not truly have it all?

I hope you all had a great Sunday and continue to have a great week!
Before I finish up here, here's a great Sunday song for you!

Never Alone by Lady Antebellum
Never Alone by Lady Antebellum & Jim Brickman on Grooveshark


Wednesday, October 9, 2013


All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.
- Helen Keller

Is life hard sometimes, or what?! Have you ever heard stories of those people who seem to just have the worst life ever? Maybe you are that person - that person who has simply come across a lot of heartache. 

Life's pretty much tough by definition. But your life story should not be one of sadness! You have such an incredible future ahead of you! 

I recently read Anthem by Ayn Rand. Basically it is one of those futuristic dystopia type books where the government controls everything and people are not allowed to think for themselves. *Spoiler alert: In the end, the main character recognizes society's flaw and runs away into the forest to live a life of his own... alone. 
Yeah. The end. 
So I was asked the question today in English, "why is this a story of hope and liberation instead of one of despair?"

Well, let me tell you. A blank slate - a future that is yours for the taking - is such a beautiful thing. Whatever is behind you, whatever you have learned, can only help you from here on out. 
You could start a brand new life tomorrow, you know! Wake up and decide "today I am going to be someone important." 

Our God is a God of second chances. He offers peace. He offers a new perspective. 

You can make your life a beautiful one of service, love, and happiness. You have a blank canvas in front of you, it is up to you what colors to paint it with. 
Be optimistic. Life comes with trials, bumps in the road. But life keeps moving forward, and if you do your best to move along with it, you will see amazing things you could never see before. 

Thomas S. Monson said that often "We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone.”
Having a negative attitude always makes things seem worse than they really are. When we have hope and look for bright days ahead, even the days we are living now will feel more glorious. 

I've been so so blessed with school this year. I have always been one to stress a lot about school. Even though I keep excellent grades, I've always stressed often about all the homework I have to do, all the tests to study for, etc. etc. 
I was so scared for this year because not only is it junior year in high school - in my opinion one of the hardest and most important - I am also taking 10 credits at the college a half hour away so that I can get a couple years of college in before I graduate. Anyways, over the summer I was so scared I was going to be overwhelmed and had a knot in my stomach every time I thought about all that I was trying to take on. 
Then something crazy happened. School started, and I really do have quite a lot of homework. But I am not stressed. I really don't even know how that happened. I have just gotten into a routine where every day I look at my planner, I make sure I am prepared for the next day, maybe I do some homework due in the future, and I call it a night. 
I'm not sure what changed that I have been so much more chill about schoolwork this year. I work just as hard. But I don't let myself worry so much. 
The days will pass. I could spend all day stressing about a test, but whether I spend the day stressing or not, the next day will come. The test will pass. It will all work out, and in a week I will have forgotten about being worried in the first place. 

Things are never as bad as they seem. Life is full of tender mercies and happy surprises. Be happy. Don't worry so much, and you will be more satisfied with your life. YOU can overcome. And you can help others overcome. 

I thank God for bright futures.

Monday, August 5, 2013

ask for help

Finally. FINALLY. I am home! For good this time. This summer has flown. My family had a great time in California, but I am so glad to be home. I can’t say that I’m dying to go back to school, but I’ll at least be glad to have a set schedule back. And I am so excited to be back in my home ward!
Here are a couple pics from our trip…

Golden Gate Bridge. It was fun to have my best friend Sydney in California with us.

Isaac’s birthday. I wonder if he likes his iron man toy?! (sorry for blurry pic)

I think I need to get into a better schedule with studying my scriptures and conference talks. I’m pretty sure I’ve done okay this summer for the most part, but especially the past couple weeks I’ve let my good habits slip a bit.

I was thinking the other day about the blessings I might be able to have in my life if I simply put in the tiniest bit of extra effort. Maybe all I’d even have to do is ask for them.

I wonder how hard it is for Heavenly Father to watch us struggle. It’s probably harder than I can imagine. As much as it is surely possible for Him to take away our sorrows, to bless us with strength, perhaps sometimes He waits for us to ask. Somehow, sometime, we have to learn to trust and rely on Him.

Maybe sometimes I put off things like scripture reading because I’m too busy trying to deal with things, solve all my problems. Surely just putting in the time to read my scriptures and following the commandments would solve my problems more efficiently, wouldn’t it?

I’m grateful for a Father in Heaven who blesses me so much. One who is patient and understanding always. I want to spend the necessary time so that I can draw closer to God and make sure that asking Him for help is always the first solution to come to mind in times of trouble.

We can make life so much easier for ourselves if we simply remember to ask. Ask for help, ask for more love, a softer heart, more angels to bear you up.

“Every moment of your life is infinitely creative and the universe is endlessly bountiful. Just put forth a clear enough request, and everything your heart desires must come to you.” – Shakti Gawain

Have a great day and week. God is good. Always remember this!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

leave a mark

Whew!! Is it July 28th already? I have been gone sooo much and have been so busy!

Sorry for the blog negligence! :)

So first of all, I left for FIJI on July 2nd and it was the Most. Amazing. Trip. Ever. It was so fun and I was so sad to have to leave! The people there have so little and yet are the most content, happy people ever! And the ward there was awesome! So many fun people!

I am away from home (yet again) in California at the moment, so I won't share too many pictures. It is just a pain to upload the pictures because my internet is reeeeally slow right now! :)

Chilling on the beautiful beaches

Baptisms at the Suva temple
 Me with Harrilea and Junior

Me with village kids
Some of us with a bunch of the ward's youth
At a school in the village
Working on the bathroom
Finished toilet and septic tank!
Me with David
We had so much fun serving the people, playing with the kids, learning about the culture, swimming in the ocean, making new friends, participating in church activities, and doing other fun things like seeing a movie and going to McDonalds! Tell your kids to save/fundraise for a HEFY (link) trip!! It is the most incredible organization ever!
It was so neat to see such a different part of the world. It helped me to be a more rounded person and gave me new perspectives. You guys, be grateful for what you have!!!

I was also reminded how much God loves everyone.

People! YOU. MATTER!!! And if you are ever feeling down on yourself, try serving others. Be a light to other people and make their lives better. I promise you, it will make you feel important when you spend your time being an instrument in the Lord's hands.

I heard something interesting when we were at the temple doing baptisms for the dead. The temple president came to give us a little thought before we got started, and I love what he said. He read off a few of the names of people we would be getting baptized for and shared their birth dates and where they were born. He reminded us that they were real people who lived and breathed and until now probably thought they had been forgotten. He got a little emotional and pointed out that these people are probably never thought of anymore, never mentioned. Who knows - their names being spoken in the font may be the first time they've been mentioned in years and years.

I don't want to leave people forgotten. I want to feed Christ's lambs. I want to serve Him forever and ever. I want my friends to feel like I love them. I want to make sure that I leave this life having given everything I could possibly give.

I want to rescue people. I want to strengthen Christ's army. I want to leave a mark on the world - leave a mark in heaven.

This is my purpose, and this I will do.

I truly could never share enough about my experience in Fiji. But it didn't end in Fiji.

There are people here who need me. And most definitely people here who need you.

“Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great purpose in heart.”  - Gordon B. Hinckley

You guys are awesome. I'm really stoked to start blogging a lot again. I'm just spending time with family here in California, but when I get home the summer should start winding down and I can get myself back into a good blogging routine!

Have a lovely day!



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