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On each and every Memorial Day our social media feeds are filled with heartfelt gratitude for those who have paid the ultimate price for our rights and liberties. As a nation we should drop to our knees and humbly thank every soldier in uniform who is willing to put their lives on the line to defend ours. They truly write a blank check with their life that can be cashed in at any time in the line of duty.
I hope the photos below stir the soul and inspire you to greater appreciation and depth of thankfulness for those who have put on a uniform to keep us free. The cost of our "holiday" this month (and every day) has been high and those who paid our bill must never be forgotten.
As Thomas Campbell once said, “The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree."
"What does it feel like to crash?"
That seems to be the second most popular question I receive when people find out I'm a bobsled pilot and coach (the first being, 'Have you seen Cool Runnings?' which of course I have). What does a bobsled crash feel like? Sadly, most people are disappointed that not every crash results in concussions, broken bones, or near death experiences. They can be violent, yes, but usually a bobsled crash is just a "hold on and wait for the ride to come to a complete stop" kind of affair. You try to keep your body off the ice so you don't get ice burns (which can be pretty nasty), but a crash is just part of the sport and you learn to roll with the punches.
I guess you could say that that is one of the first things bobsled taught me about adversity, that in order to keep playing the game you have to roll with the punches and keep moving forward. It is natural for newer drivers to be nervous about driving the track again after they just crashed, but you always silently cheer for those who face those fears and do it anyway. In life, we all face a choice whenever adversity or hard times come our way: we can let the fear prevent us from trying again, from dreaming again, from loving again or from believing in goodness again, but that choice is ours alone. As bobsled athletes, no coach can force us to take to the ice if we decide that our fears are more valid than our goals. Similarly, in life no one, not even God, can force us to reach for the stars if we choose to listen to our fears instead of our faith, and I'm not talking religious faith; I mean our beliefs that life can be amazing if we work for it and allow good things come our way.
If you haven't read any of my previous articles regarding the joys and wonders of the LDS midsingle world (examples here, here and here), then perhaps you aren't aware of my satirical take on all things midsingle. Disclaimer: don't take everything I write seriously, although I have put my heart into a few such posts, including The Future Spouse Jar and The Case of the Tin Soldier.
But like many of you, the preparation for attending an LDS midsingle event can be both time and energy consuming (which is why Facebook invented the "Maybe" going option). First you have to read about the event on Facebook, then click on the "Attending" list to see who is going, then reach out to your friend group (aka "the team") to see what everyone is thinking. Should we go? Is there another party or dance or bonfire or hike or Powell party or game night or or or etc. etc. etc. You get my drift.
And then, once a decision has been made (which depending on the size of your friend group could be a miracle in and of itself), then comes The Preparation. Now, ladies, I won't even begin to comment on the labors you go through to get ready for the dances or parties or any of the midsingle social events, really. But I think what you'll read below speaks for all of us when I describe what we feel when we get ready to head to whatever event we've decided to attend (thirty to sixty+ minutes late, mind you; best to be fashionably late).
Raise your hand if checking your cell phone is the first thing you do in the morning. Come on, be honest, you know it is. You check your texts, then your Facebook, Tinder for a bit then maybe, just maybe, you do something big-kid-like and look up the news or perhaps even the weather. But somewhere in there, you are mentally checking your schedule. Thank goodness for calendar reminders, right? And Facebook's convenient "Events" tab to keep us on top of our social outings.
On a more serious note, I highly recommend spending five minutes in the morning putting together a To-Do list and outlining what you'll do that day. I have seen Olympic gold medalists do this, international CEOs do this and even award-winning artists do this. It is well worth it!
"Are you going tonight?" Who knows that at lunchtime? I mean, we still have the rest of the afternoon to decide, plus a few hours after work. No need to make any decisions just yet; we might get a better offer or invite at the last minute, right?
While you're trying to decide, if you need any more indication about our demographic's inability to commit then just look at the "Attending/Maybe Attending" ratio on any event's page.
With all the recent excitement about the upcoming Payson, UT LDS Temple Open House (which looks amazing, by the way), I can't help but think back to a small, yet testimony-building experience I had in March of 2009 during the Draper, UT LDS Temple Open House.
My Elder's Quorum was asked to provide some bodies to help with "security" on a particular evening for about five hours. Being young, fit and otherwise un-engaged (literally, unfortunately) I volunteered and found myself tasked with watching an area just inside the north-east temple doors. Not that there was much to do besides pass out water bottles, answer questions and otherwise help provide a friendly atmosphere for the Open House guests. As security gigs go, a temple Open House is pretty low-key.
After the final group made its way through the temple, we began to usher out the remaining guests and then had to complete a walk through of the entire temple to make sure everyone was out before we turned off the lights and locked all the doors. This was a wonderful opportunity for me and the other volunteers to wander the sacred and hallowed (even if un-dedicated yet) halls of this beautiful building. Anyone who has been or served in that temple can testify of the breath-taking art, the peaceful decor, the hope-filling lighting (best way I can think to describe that) and the strengthening peace found within its walls.
Last Sunday while teaching my Sunday School class to ten amazing 16-17 year old teens, we discussed the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep conversion to his gospel with a unshakable testimony of his restored church. I know that this seems like a no-brainer for many of us, but over the past few weeks as I have been watching the news (once a journalist, always a journalist) I have felt a deep concern for Christians everywhere.
There are Lamanites in the land once more.
For those of you who may not be familiar with this moniker, the Lamanites were an main demographic found within the Book of Mormon, a volume of ancient scripture written by prophets who lived on the American continent (Mayan archaeologists could rightly call it "The Mormon's Codex". For the major portion of this work the Lamanites were violently opposed to the followers of Christ, known as Nephites, and filled with a hatred for Christianity that I see is deeply mirrored in the recent campaigns by the radically militant Islamic State (I'll use IS from now on) in the Middle East. And to any NSA analysts reading this because I'm writing about IS (quite negatively, mind you), please not that this article is all my own opinion and not any official stance for the organizations I work with. But if you would like to know more about what us "Mormons" believe, please visit Mormon.org.
While siting in a seminar recently that delightfully I was able to just listen to instead of speaking at the well-intentioned speaker listed tips to appear more attractive to members of the opposite sex. I wanted to raise my hand and ask, "What is your true purpose in listing those things, is it to educate or to flatter?"
Let's see if any of this sounds familiar. While I agree with some of the traits/items mentioned in these lists online and in magainzes, the others just sound plain sexist if not over the top. For example, ladies you apparently are supposed to be fit (more than one list specifically said so you can look good naked), wear dresses or form-fitting clothes, be submissive, cook well, be a good mom or not have kids (because that's not contradictory), don't swear too much, be educated/intelligent, be giving, be a good friend, don't be overly emotional, and the lists go on and on. I'm not even female and that list felt overwhelming.
Which brings me to the ten-thousand lists out there online, in magazines, journals, etc. that list "Things Women Find Attractive in Men." Now, a little background. This topic has come to mind after years and years of private conversations with some of the greatest guy friends and teammates, coworkers and fellow members of my church. This is not a "poor us" article, but rather one designed to stand as a voice for these men who are amazing dads, hard workers, great athletes, genuine friends and even powerful disciples of Christ who are doing their best. They may not have won the genetic lottery or even the financial one, but these are incredibly good guys.
If this were a Sherlock Holmes story the title would be, "The Case of the Tin Soldier."
This past week we celebrated Easter, or Holy Week, and remembered the life, death and glorious resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It was wonderful to see so many people sharing their faith, their gratitude and their devotion on social media while simultaneously declaring their determination to follow the Lord and keep his teachings in their lives.
Sadly, somewhere within a matter of ten minutes to ten hours, those same people broke a commandment that they fail to keep every single day.
Whoa. I know, right? How judgmental of me to say such a thing, but I'm betting you break this commandment just as often. And now you want to reach through the screen and slap me across the face. That's ok; if I wasn't struggling with this same commandment this whole post would be a hypocritical pile of buffalo chips that the pioneers would have burned for fuel as they crossed the plains. But to prove that my words are not just smoke drifting away in cyberspace, I'll show you just how right I am. Yup, I went there....but for a good cause.
Several years ago a dear friend, Jonelle, surprised me with an autographed print of Greg Olsen's "O Jerusalem" painting. This majestic piece captures the quiet strength, even the eternal strength of the Savior's character, not to mention the beautiful scenery of the Holy Land countryside (and no, Mr. Olsen isn't paying me to say all that).
But if you look closely, you can see something else on Christ's face. In my youth I almost wondered if it was defeat (after all, he knew his betrayal and crucifixion were near). But now that I'm older I understand the look in Jesus' eyes was something else entirely; it was acceptance. The hint of sorry in his eyes stems from the acceptance that so many people in Jerusalem would not listen to the message of peace and salvation that he desired so deeply to give them.
And as we look forward to this Easter season, I can't help but wonder if that same hint of sorrow still exists in the resurrected Savior's heart.
Let's face it: the LDS midsingles world is a complicated conglomeration of faith and fun, uplifting moments and crushing disappointments. And while there are plenty of jokes to be made, spiritual experiences to share and experiences we love to cherish (and other we can't wait to forget), the truth is that we all have to stick together during this period in our lives.
That being said, some midsingles want to live in the neighborhood of Singlesville a bit too long. The goal of every midsingle should be to move out of this community as soon as possible. And by possible, I include all the no-brainer qualifications: finding a worthy companion who respects you and the Lord and desires to cherish you both through honoring their covenants.
But I digress. We have to laugh at ourselves sometimes as Latter-day Saints and I can't think of a more humor-filled era of this life than the LDS midsingles world. I would know, I've been in it for far too long so based on my years of experience (my dad is shaking his head), here are the 13 Midsingle Articles of Faith. And yes, read this with a large grain of salt and a healthy sense of humor.
“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
When I saw The Fellowship of the Ring movie for the first time, those words struck me like a hammer on an anvil. They were spoken to Froddo, the hobbit whose task it was to take the dreaded One Ring to Mount Doom, as encouragement by the Lady Galadriel when she gave him a small crystal phial, filled with the light of Eärendil's star. She knew that dark days lay ahead for Froddo and his companions and in an act of mercy, compassion and support she gave him light for those times when it felt like the darkness is overwhelming, that there was no other source of light.
So, why were those words so powerful for me?
For years now I have been asked by friends, family, counselors, leaders, teammates, advocates and spokespersons to write about faith and mental illness. While the two have been covered in enough written words to fill the Library of Congress, I feel that we have not seen the two discussed together enough and when it is there is far too much clinical writing and not enough first-hand accounts. So, like two awkward teenagers slow dancing for the first time under the lights, faith and mental illness are often seen touching hands, when in reality they should embrace in an intimate setting that can bring hope, light, love, peace and strength that only a strong relationship can.
Let me state right now that I am not a trained therapist nor mental health professional. What I'm going to write is merely my opinion intermixed with my faith and what I have learned through my own journey with mental illness.