Tuesday, June 30, 2015

6 Things Sister Smith Has Taught Me About Marriage

Two events have coincided recently to inspire this blog post. The first of which was the United States Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. The second is taking place tomorrow when my current companion, Sister Smith, and I are being separated after 12 weeks with one another. I'm not going to tackle the religious issues surrounding same-sex attraction and marriage (you can find the official church stance here), but I do want to talk about marriage in general because it is the single most important covenant we can make with our Heavenly Father while we are here on Earth. As is obvious to those who know me, I am not, nor have I ever been married. I am definitely not an expert on relationships, but living with someone for 24 hours a day for the past 17 months has definitely opened my eyes to the realities of what married life very well might be like. Daily I have learned things as a missionary that I will apply in married life that will hopefully lead to a successful and happy relationship. As a tribute to Sister Smith and our impending breakup, I want to discuss the six most important things I've learned from our companionship about successful relationships.

6: Laughter is vital
Missionary work is really hard. People stand you up all the time, others are rude at times, and a large percentage of individuals think you're young, innocent, and uneducated. If you add in the fact that you're always tired and and your hair never looks as good as it did pre-mission you can see how real the struggle is. As hard as missionary work is, I've been told more times than I can count that marriage and family life is harder. No matter what point you are at in life, there will be hardships and trials. Things outside of your control will always drive you crazy and often your plan will be kicked to the curb. It would be really easy to have a bad attitude about mortal life (and some people do), but it is unnecessary. I've thoroughly enjoyed every day of my mission because I've decided to. What has made it even easier though is having someone to laugh with. Sister Smith and I laugh ALL THE TIME. If we are in the car between appointments we are laughing. If we were just rejected at a door we wait until we are out of ear shot and then we are laughing. If we have the flu the day before my 24th birthday and are miserable, we are laughing. I've learned that I have to be with someone for eternity that can laugh off the bad with me because the bad will become more prevalent if we embrace it and don't fight against it.

This was us for approximately 24 hours on the eve of my 24th birthday. Through the misery, we had many a tender memory made.
5: Know what matters and what doesn't
As a child we are always told that we're like snowflakes and no two of us are alike. Blah blah blah. Well, it's true. Even though Sister Smith and I are largely the same person (as manifest by our identical interests, Spotify playlists, and love of hipster-esque items) we have differences. I'll never forget the first time we taught the Restoration lesson together and she explained the Great Apostasy differently than I do. It really caught me off guard. I had had so many young companions until that point that every one I had been with just emulated me in their teaching style. For the first time in a very long time I was with someone that taught completely differently than I did. It didn't matter though because the message was still delivered and the person heard what they needed to hear. It would be so easy to nitpick each other and point out flaws all day long. But if it doesn't affect her salvation or missionary work, then it doesn't need to be addressed. A spouse or children will never be perfect. Change yourself before you seek to change others. You can always develop more charity, patience, and love.

4: Always communicate your feelings
People can't read minds. It just isn't a thing. Yet. Science. Talk about what makes you happy, sad, frustrated, angry, confused, etc. People need to know where you're at if you want to work together to achieve happiness. People also like to hear when they're doing well. Let them know when you love them. I really struggled with this before my mission. I considered it a talent for a long time that I could hide anything. I hate emotions and feelings. They make me so uncomfortable. But if a relationship is going to be effective, you have to be an open book. I've never communicated so many emotions in my life until I became a missionary. It's always been helpful though. Never do it in a negative or a demanding way. Just let people know what you're thinking or feeling.

Look how happy we are. After this event we communicated that to one another!

3: Embrace the oddities
Everyone has quirks. Even people who you think are normal have them. Apparently I scrunch my nose a lot. Sister Smith shrieks and talks in a weird low voice a lot. Just love people for who they are.

Another quirk of mine: I love taking pictures in the most random settings. She embraced it and humored me more times than I can count.

2. Marry a best friend, not just a person you love
Love is a powerful thing, but it can't compensate for a lack of friendship. Nothing is sadder to me than married people who spend a majority of their free time without their spouse. The last three months have flown by because the Lord blessed me with a best friend companion. It is true that you can be happy with anyone if you choose to be, but why not be happy with your favorite person?

1: Anything is surmountable through Christ
At the end of the day everything is possible through Jesus Christ. Sister Smith's unwavering faith has reminded me that even through the toughest of trials He is the one that will lift you up. Center your life in Christ and find someone who will do the same and you'll always be taken care of.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Catwashed: Tales of a Brainwashed Mormon

Cats only have a few purposes in life as far as I am concerned. They were created for Youtube videos, internet memes, and to add humor to paper goods, such as: wrapping paper, gift cards, and disposable plates. My mom has a strong distaste for felines that was pounded into my head from infancy. Comments like, "there's opposition in all things. Dogs are good; cats are bad," and, "cats are not allowed in my home because they are gross," were common brainwashing statements strewn throughout my youth. Her hisses against cats worked though--all three of us Poppe children hate cats and I don't think any of us have a single credible reason to. Brainwashing your children is a real thing, and I am the product of it.

Here are some cats, fulfilling their real purpose in life.
My father did the same thing with Ford vehicles. We all knew from the youngest age that dad would only purchase a Ford, and if we wanted something different at the age of 16 his compromise would be a Huffy 10 speed. To this day I cringe when I have to drive something that isn't a descendant of Henry's original assembly line. Again, I have no reason to dislike any vehicle without a blue oval on the grill; I just have been conditioned to hold Ford automobiles above the rest.

As has been made clear, I am the victim of parental brainwashing. I am all too familiar with the confusion of having an opinion and no evidence to back it up. I hate cats. I love Fords. And I'm a Mormon. One of those statements is not like the others though, and it is the last one. I'm a Mormon, and I wasn't tricked into this religion by my scheming parents. Let's examine a few differences between my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and my opinions about cats and Fords.

Reasons I Hate Cats:
1. My mom told me to and after years of that mantra I gave up and got on board.
3. They leave hair on my legs when they touch me and I do not like that.

Reasons I Love Fords:
1. My dad told me to, and after years of that mantra I turned 16 and wanted independence in the form of four wheels so I complied with his guidelines.
2. They look nice...

Reasons I am a Mormon:
1. First and foremost, I do have to acknowledge that I was raised in this religion, so that does play a role in my beliefs.

2. Matthew 7:16 states, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" What are the fruits of the LDS church and the commandments and beliefs we follow? Do good things come of our faith or bad?  A turning point in my reasons for attending church happened when I was a teenager. I never had friends who were members of the church when I was growing up because Latter-day Saints are a rare breed in the Midwest. I loved my friends, but I had different standards. I found myself in an uncomfortable situation at the age of 16 that painfully showed the gap between our values. I was in a hotel room with some friends who were all underage drinking and I couldn't walk away for the first time in my life. I was in another state and couldn't go home without leaving three other people stranded in Nebraska. I was frustrated, and for the first time I recognized the blessings of being obedient even when it was hard. I spent the whole night alone in my own corner of the hotel room, abstaining from the alcohol I was being pressured into drinking. I recognized in that moment that I was grateful for the way that I was raised and for the expectations and standards my parents held me to. The trial of my faith proved to me that standing up to my friends and not compromising on my beliefs made me happier. The fruits of obedience were evident and continued to be throughout my high school career. The fruits of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as restored through Joseph Smith, are everywhere. People frequently tell me that Mormons are happy. Mormons serve their community. Mormons seem put together. It isn't a coincidence. Those strawberries and bananas were enough to convince me that the church taught correct doctrine and was worth living true to. For me, the fruits of the gospel were the biggest indicators of the truthfulness of the church as I was developing a testimony that stood apart from my parents'.

3. At the end of the day my parents' nurturing and the good things I feel at church aren't enough to keep me here. I feel a lot of good things when I'm perusing the shoe aisles of Nordstrom Rack, but I would never worship there. Our Father in Heaven has promised us many things. One of those things is that if we read the Book of Mormon and pray about its truthfulness, we will get an answer. I don't go to church because I love the culture or because I don't want to disappoint my parents by being absent. I follow the commandments and live true to the covenants I have made with my Heavenly Father because something older than any of us stirs within me when I am living the gospel. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world. He died for all of us and lives again for us too. I know these things because I studied and prayed and worked and expected an answer. I did something that anyone else is entitled to do. I continue to do these things because faith needs nurturing. I talk to the father of my spirit daily and the impossible to replicate peace I feel tells me it is true.  I invite you to pray. Pray about anything and see what happens as you develop that relationship with God. As you get more comfortable praying, start to ask questions and examine how you feel. Answer come to those who are humble enough to receive them.

I don't know why I hate cats. I don't know why I love Fords. But I do know why I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And it definitely isn't because I was brainwashed.