Wednesday, November 26, 2014

6 Things I'm Grateful For

Allred #9 is a humble apartment one block south of BYU campus. This tiny box was my home for 9 months during my junior year of college.  The small living quarters housed a lot of 20-something angst the year I lived there. While each of my two best-friends-turned-roommates and I were going through our own unique trials, we came up with the same solution to combat our pitiful state of being. We would blog lists of things we were grateful for periodically to put our seemingly insignificant problems into perspective. Since that moment, I have made it a tradition to write and/or blog a list of things I'm grateful for at least once a year.

6 Things Sister P is Grateful for This Special Mission Holiday Season:

6. Satan's 5K is Over! 

Not only is it over, but I didn't die! I learned a lot from the entire experience and am not only grateful that it is over; I'm grateful that I participated. Training for the 5K was the first time in a very long time that I stuck with something I hated (and that I wasn't paid to that one awful job I had for 2.5 years in college). It was humbling, stretching, and tiring--just like any good trial should be.

Sister Jenkins and I celebrating in the only appropriate way...with a jumping picture, clearly.

High fives for all!

Run/walk heat partners for life. Seriously, I prayed that Heavenly Father would make the 5K less awful and he blessed me with an awesome sister who was going at the same pace as me to talk to.
The gazelle makes another appearance on the blog.
If you blow this picture up like a creeper, you'll notice that I am actually smiling while I'm running...WHAT?!? I think it is when I made the comment to my neighbor about a 5K being less than you would walk in a day at Disneyland, therefore it was doable, yet still not as fun.

5. A Testimony in Heavenly Father's Plan and Timing

When I came out on my mission my trainer asked me to think of a goal for myself that didn't involve things I couldn't control (i.e. number of baptisms). I quickly knew that if I only accomplished one thing on my mission, I wanted to have 1,000 percent faith in Heavenly Father's plan for me. I'm not sure when I gained a testimony of this principle, but sometime during the last ten (TEN?!?!!!!!) months I did. I don't doubt anymore. I know that at times His plan is hard, but I will always know that it is right, and that it will lead to happiness in the end.

4. My Companions

I have loved all of the companions I've had on my mission and that is a huge blessing, because being with someone 24/7 is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Heavenly Father has really been looking out for me! I've learned important lessons and Christlike attributes from each companion. My future husband and children will be able to thank each one of them for making me an easier person to live with I am sure.

Sister Whitten (I don't have a picture handy of just the two of us, because she was my MTC companion, back in the day before the iPad).
Sister Gillespie
Sister Dumas
Sister Dawson
3. My Family

Being on a mission has made me appreciate my family about a million times more than I already did (and I already appreciated them a lot!). I miss them a lot and actually understand the importance of being sealed to them for eternity now. I am never going to not see them for 18 months ever again in my life, because it is awful.

2. The Opportunity I have to Serve the Lord Full Time

Never again in my life will I have the opportunity to give all of my time, talents, and dedication to my Savior. 

1. Jesus Christ

There was a lot I didn't understand about what Jesus Christ did for me before I came on a mission, and there is still much I can't wrap my head around. My heart has learned a lot about the enabling power of the atonement while I've been on a mission, and for that I am extremely grateful. I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and before my mission I really didn't. I passively acknowledged his ability to clean my sins from my soul, but other than that, I didn't recognize all that he did for me in the Garden of Gethsemane and on his long journey to Calvary. He is the reason I know that there is so much more in store for me than I can even imagine. He is the reason I can persevere through everything difficult and un-enjoyable. He is the reason I can return to live with my Heavenly Father and family after this life. He is the reason for everything.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Training for Satan's 5K

When I was in 6th grade I decided I had had enough of our physical fitness tests in school. I devised a plan to get me out of our spring half mile run that proved to be successful. I knew that if I could come up with a reason to go to the doctor that I could manipulate my mother into making the appointment during gym class on the day of the infamous 800 without her suspecting anything. I wasn't going to fake an illness; that would be too hard to pull off.  I knew my abilities and limits. I have been cursed with ingrown toe nails my entire life, compliments of my father's genetics, and that was my in.  My dad had just had one removed at the doctor and I was going to follow his medical example. Our gym teacher gave us a week or so notice for when the big event would be and then I artfully waited until two or three days before then to tell my mom that I HAD to go to the doctor to get my toe nail fixed. She said she would call the next morning. I nonchalantly suggested the day and time that would work best for my overbearing 6th grade schedule and she conformed. When we arrived at the doctor, I was informed that my ingrown toenail wasn't that bad and was sent back on my way.  I didn't care though, because I got out of running at a humiliatingly slow pace with all my classmates and my only punishment was a reprimand for being a drama queen about my toe and a B in PE because I conveniently never had time to stay after school to make up my run. I tell this story to illustrate one important point; I absolutely loath running.

I've tried to get into running a few times during my life because I wanted a runner's physique, but it never stuck. I usually give it a go for a few weeks and then decide that it isn't worth the effort. Imagine my horror when my mission president and his wife announced that we would be running a 5K as a mission the Monday before Thanksgiving. I immediately hated my life. We were given a modified Couch to 5K training schedule and cheerfully told to give it our all and results would follow. Shortly thereafter I dubbed the race Satan's 5K and didn't truly know how fitting that name would prove to be.

From the get go I knew it would be harder than ever to get into running because I couldn't bump my jams while I hit the pavement. In the past I put my ear buds in and turned up some form of teen pop music to a volume just beneath ear drum shattering in order to drown out my heavy breathing. Without upbeat melodies and horribly written, yet alarmingly catchy lyrics in my ears, I was left with only an angry inner diatribe and gasps for air to serenade my run (which is really more like a brisk walk with a bounce). Very quickly, my negative thoughts branched out and multiplied until every morning my work out included a tangled web of self loathing thoughts and lies. Not too long after we started training for our 5K, the destructive ideas started to leak past my half an hour work out and into the hour I got ready as well.

"I hate running because I'm so out of shape," lead to, "I'm never going to get good at this," which usually turned in to, "if I don't get good at running, I'll never be in shape." That line undoubtedly spun in to, "and if I'm never in shape I'll clearly never get married."  From there, my thoughts rapidly escalated to, "if I never get married, I'll be such a disappointment to my family and culture.  And if I never get married I'll never have kids and I'll never fulfill my womanly duty to be a mother. Why am I even on a mission? Maybe we are struggling to find people to teach in this area because I'm not pretty enough. I bet attractive missionaries have more success.  That's the real reason why we have to run this 5K. We're supposed to be getting into better shape so we can be more beautiful and find people to teach. Why is my companion such a fast runner; she is literally a gazelle. A GAZELLE. MAYBE AN ANTELOPE. I DON'T KNOW.  I'm so slow and she has got to hate me for slowing her down. I wish I could just fall on a cactus and break my leg so I wouldn't have to run anymore and be a hindrance to my companion. Why aren't there any cacti on our running route? I would probably be a hindrance to a husband too. I mean, I'm 23 and on a mission. Man, my breathing sounds like an angry walrus gasping for air. Maybe Heavenly Father sent me on a mission as a form of busy work, since I have approximately 60 more years of unmarried life ahead of me. Well, probably only 40 since I'm bad at running so my heart will give out." And on and on an on, for an hour and a half every single morning.
Me when I was angry about running. GRRRRRR.

My companion during her morning run.

Maybe I'm a little dramatic. I know. But c' was running! Without Selena Gomez!

When it got to the point that I couldn't sleep at night because I was dreading waking up in the morning because I knew I would have to run, and subsequently spend an hour and a half with my own brain, I decided something needed to change.

As missionaries, we reference the scripture Ether 12:27 frequently. It reads, 

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

(emphasis and angry color choice added)

Running is definitely a weakness of mine, but I realized that my bigger weaknesses were pride and doubt. I felt that running was such a trivial thing that I couldn't pray and ask for help because Heavenly Father didn't want to hear about my physical activity woes. After I humbled myself and knew that the only way I was going to get myself out of bed morning after morning was with a lot of divine help, I went to my knees and my thoughts changed. Did I really believe that I'll never get married? No. But it is still my biggest fear, and Satan plays on our fears. When I acknowledged that I was allowing Satan to be my running partner every morning it made it far easier to change my attitude and perspective. The only true statement in my angry stream of consciousness was that my companion is literally a gazelle. I can get in shape in a thousand different ways that aren't running. I can get married without being a model (or a gazelle). I will have children at some point in eternity, because I have been promised that. I don't really want to break my leg; that would be awful. I will most likely live beyond the age of 63. Most importantly, Heavenly Father didn't call me on a mission to kill time while he came up with something else for me to do. We're never asked to do something to just occupy our time.

I was so upset at myself for letting Satan rule my thoughts and guide the opinions I had of myself. I should have known better than to let him diminish my self worth and divine nature. But that's why he's so good at what he does, he's sneaky. With a lot of prayer and a conscious effort to think of happy (or at least neutral) things while I ran, my weaknesses became stronger. When I can't think of anything positive while I'm running, I count. It's not necessarily uplifting, but it keeps my mind occupied, and eventually I find that my mind has wandered somewhere else more positive. I often think about what Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ would tell me if they were running beside me. I'm sure they wouldn't judge my slow progress, in fact, they would likely commend me for building myself up to the point that I can almost run a mile without stopping. As I pray each night and in the morning I ask for the strength to push myself a little harder and for the mental endurance to keep my thoughts positive. AND IT WORKS. Every single day that I depend on the Lord, He makes it possible for me to do something I hate. More impressive than my running triumphs, is the progress I've made in turning my doubt to faith and my pride to humility.

I can testify that the Lord will truly help us along our paths if we seek His assistance. We can expect immediate assistance and gradual growth. 

Maybe I will look like this down the road when I am 100% better at running. Except I would never wear a red head band with a pink sweater. So maybe that will just be my running aura.