Monday, October 2, 2017

Another Earthquake. Another Hurricane. Another Shooting.


My companion and I participating in the Mormon Helping Hands cleanup after Hurricane Matthew in 2017.
























Another Earthquake. Another Hurricane. Another Shooting.

It's flooded our news feeds and there is no escape to it.

But maybe we're not supposed to escape it.

Maybe we're not supposed to try to fix it.

Maybe we're supposed to turn to God.

In the recent General Conference that took place this last weekend, the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints spoke of hope in a fallen world. They spoke of a peace that comes only through the Savior Jesus Christ and liberation that comes only through Christ's Atonement and the wonderful sacrifice He made for each of us. It is only through him that we can have peace and direction during these trying times.

But what about the tree on your house? What about the lives that are lost? What about you're own personal trials that you're going through that aren't plastered on the news or seen on anybody's twitter feed? The kind that nobody knows about, but that keep you up all hours of the night? What do we do about those?

One of my favorite conference talks comes from the October 1993 conference. In it Elder Jeffrey R. Holland tells a story about four year old Katie Lewis as recounted by Katie's mother. As I look at the horror happening in the world around me, I can't help but feel like the world needs to hear this message. In this talk Elder Holland says that Katie lewis is his neighbor, her father, Randy, was his bishop; her mother, Melanie, was a saint. And her older brother, Jimmie, was battling lukemia.

Elder Holland shared what follows;

"Sister Lewis recently recounted for me the unspeakable fear and grief that came to their family when Jimmie’s illness was diagnosed. She spoke of the tears and the waves of sorrow that any mother would experience with a prognosis as grim as Jimmie’s was. But like the faithful Latter-day Saints they are, the Lewises turned to God with urgency and with faith and with hope. They fasted and prayed, prayed and fasted. And they went again and again to the temple.

"One day Sister Lewis came home from a temple session weary and worried, feeling the impact of so many days—and nights—of fear being held at bay only by monumental faith.

"As she entered her home, four-year-old Katie ran up to her with love in her eyes and a crumpled sheaf of papers in her hand. Holding the papers out to her mother, she said enthusiastically, “Mommy, do you know what these are?”

"Sister Lewis said frankly her first impulse was to deflect Katie’s zeal and say she didn’t feel like playing just then. But she thought of her children—all her children—and the possible regret of missed opportunities and little lives that pass too swiftly. So she smiled through her sorrow and said, “No, Katie. I don’t know what they are. Please tell me.”

"“They are the scriptures,” Katie beamed back, “and do you know what they say?”
Sister Lewis stopped smiling, gazed deeply at this little child, knelt down to her level, and said, “Tell me, Katie. What do the scriptures say?”

"“They say, ‘Trust Jesus.’” And then she was gone.

"Sister Lewis said that as she stood back up, holding a fistful of her four-year-old’s scribbling, she felt near-tangible arms of peace encircle her weary soul and a divine stillness calm her troubled heart.
Katie Lewis, “angel and minister of grace,” I’m with you. In a world of some discouragement, sorrow, and overmuch sin, in times when fear and despair seem to prevail, when humanity is feverish with no worldly physicians in sight, I too say, “Trust Jesus.” Let him still the tempest and ride upon the storm. Believe that he can lift mankind from its bed of affliction, in time and in eternity."

My friends... I echo Elder Holland's counsel he learned from four year old Katie Lewis. Maybe when we look at the world around us and see it crumbling we need to "trust Jesus."

Our government can't stop hurricanes. Our laws can't stop people from having cold hearts. But with the hope that comes from the Atonement of Jesus Christ our hearts can change. We can begin to help one another. We can begin to be Saviors on Mount Zion.

In this recent conference President Henry B. Eyring spoke of the recent hurricanes that have hit Florida. He told a story of a family who was on vacation when the hurricane hit, but was anxious to serve. He said that when they got back to their town they asked their church leader what they could do to help. This family later recounted that when they got home they found a tree on their house and being so overwhelmed by this they decided to reach out and serve someone else and trust that God would provide a way for their tree to be removed. In so doing they were blessed with an army of helping hands to lift this tree from off their roof.

My friends, we all have metaphorical trees on our houses. We all have things that seem to be crushing us. We, as a nation, have trees that have toppled over that no amount of political debate can provide the physical force to lift it off. We can't remove our trees alone. But as we follow the counsel of our beloved church leaders to turn to others, we can trust in the hope that God will remove our trees.

As we trust Jesus we have no need to fear. He has won the victory over death and sin and trial for each of us before, no doubt He can continue to do so for us today, but only if we allow Him. 

So my friends, in these times of trial, trust Jesus. For He is the only one that can help us overcome this. 


-Whit




Friday, September 29, 2017

Dear Blogosphere,



Dear Blogosphere,

I'm sorry I've been away for so long. I've missed you.

Wow so much has happened over the last little bit. I decided to take a break from blogging for a minute while I lived up the last part of my summer. Now I'm sitting here realizing I should probably smack an update on this little corner of the internet.

In June I was able to go to Yellowstone National Park with my YSA ward. That was a party and a half. And then I also got to go to Chicago with my cute family and that was non-stop fun.

July was amazing. I was blessed with the opportunity to go to girls camp with my home ward as the "camp photographer" which basically translates to the fact that my 12 year old sister wanted me to come so she walked straight up to my bishop and said "hey bishop... can Whitney come to camp?" and he said "Sure! We'll find something for her to do!" and KABAM I found myself at girls camp as the leader that everyone kept forgetting was an actual leader... including herself. I'm secretly still 12 at heart.




I also was blessed with the opportunity to spend HALF of August in Florida. Oh what a dream that was. I spent the first week with one of my mission companions, Kathy Glover, running all over Florida. I was finally able to go to Disney World thanks to some wonderful friends I met while I was on my mission. Then we spent some time up in New Smyrna Beach which was one of my favorite areas. When we finally got up to the area it was about 10:00 at night. Kathy and I looked at each other and said... "well, we don't have a curfew anymore. We don't have to go home yet. What should we do?" and then said "well, we are allowed to go in the ocean now."

So you'd better believe we drove straight to the ocean, parked our car, and ran full speed straight into the open waters fully clothed. What a liberating experience that was to finally stand in the water I spent eighteen months looking at from a distance. I'm in love with the ocean. My other favorite part of this trip was being reunited with the people I came to love so much as a missionary. Many people didn't know we were coming so it was such a joy to knock on their doors and surprise them.

The second week with a crew of maniacs I've been friends with since Junior High and High School. It was such a magnificent experience. If you know me very well you'll know that my soul belongs in Florida, and it was so fun to be able to introduce my friends to my favorite places. We were able to storm around Disney World some more and it was just incredible. I can't even begin to describe how much fun I had.








So where am I now?


I came home from Florida and moved to Provo a couple days later. I've now been a student at Utah Valley University for a couple months and am LOVING every second of it. I'm rooming with some mission friends and have a hard time going to bed on time because we're always up laughing. I'm currently a competition coach at an incredible gym in Provo called High Altitude and am loving coaching more than ever.

Earlier this month my beautiful little sister was set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and is currently in the Provo Missionary Training Center and she is absolutely loving being a missionary. She will serve in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana mission and we are so proud of her. But I must say that when we were dropping her off at the MTC I was pretty dang jealous it wasn't me leaving on a mission.



Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sky, outdoor and nature
 

Now it's almost October and I'm doing good! I don't quite know how to handle this colder Utah weather because I've spent the last two winters in Florida, but my gym that I work at is next to a candle company and when I left work the other day the air smelled strongly of pumpkin spice so I'm not complaining. I'm excited to see the seasons change for the first time in a long time.

I figured I'd throw this quick update on here since I've had a hard time keeping up this little corner of the internet. I will hopefully be better at updating now that I'm a little more settled into my new life down here in Provo.

I hope you are doing well and that life is treating you good. I promise to stay in touch better this time.

Love,
Whit

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What I learned from Elder M. Joseph Brough



Good morning my friends! And happy Sunday!

Since I've been home from my mission I've had the sacred opportunity to teach my stake's mission preparation class early on Sunday mornings. It has been such a wonderful blessing to share the experiences and knowledge I gained on my mission with those preparing to serve. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to serve.

This morning, however, I didn't teach mission prep. We were blessed to have  who is the Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency come speak to us. You might have remembered his talk in General Conference this last April. What a wonderful opportunity that was to sit and listen to him teach as I reflected on my service as a missionary.

The first thing he talked about struck me because it had nothing to do with missionary work. He talked about relationships. He said that "relationships are everything. They are the plan."


The plan he was referring to was of course, God's plan of happiness. The plan He made so that each of us would be able to return to live with Him again someday. What I realized this morning is that none of us can return to live with our Heavenly Father alone. Eternal Life is a group activity.

That got me to thinking about my relationships. How important are each of my relationships on my path back to Heaven.

Obviously families are very important. Because we know that through Priesthood Power families can be sealed together in temples. How grateful I am for the blessing that I have in my life to have such a wonderful family.

But what about my other relationships? As I sat there thinking I realized that every single person I've ever come in contact with has affected my journey back to my Father in Heaven.

When I was fourteen I had an EFY counselor that challenged me to pray about the Book of Mormon and ask if it was true. I'm sure this counselor doesn't realize the impact that had on my life or the lives of the thousands of people I met in Florida that I shared that experience with. There were many people who were able to enter the waters of baptism because they prayed and asked if it was true. They never would have asked had I not challenged them to. And I surely wouldn't have offered up that challenge had I not believed in it with every fiber of my being. And that testimony never would have come to me had that counselor not challenged me to pray on that Thursday night six years ago.

The people we meet on a daily basis have so much more influence on our lives than we realize.

Last Sunday I bore my testimony in my singles ward. And today, a week later, I found myself sitting at the church waiting for a temple recommend interview with a member of the stake presidency. As I was sitting there a lady came up to me and said "you're name's Whitney right? I really enjoyed the testimony you shared last week!" To think that something I shared at church could have affected someone and helped them feel the spirit made me want to go out and share the gosepel that I love with more people.

A couple days ago I was at a college orientation and had to find an office somewhere on a campus that I didn't really know. I wandered around for a little while and suddenly found myself a little lost. I started to pray right away for someone to help me. Not two seconds later a lady looked at me and said "do you need help looking for something?" right away I knew she was an answer to my prayers and was grateful for her help! I know that she was sent to that hallway specifically for me. I may never see her again, but I know her small act of service affected my life because she was willing to go out of her way to help me. That's what the Savior would have done.

So I challenge you to ponder these relationships as you go thought your week this week. Think about your families. Think about your friends. Think about those you see at school or at work. Think about that random person you see sitting across from you on the bus. We have the opportunity to influence the lives of all of those around us for the better if we choose to act as the Savior would act.

So this week do something to strengthen a few of these relationships. Give your mom a hug. Reach out to a friend you haven't talked to in a while. Smile at somebody in the hallway. Write a letter to a missionary. Say thank you. Share your testimony. Do something you'd imagine the Savior would do.

I know that we are all brothers and sisters and in this great eternal plan that our Heavenly Father has made "relationships are everything."

-Whit




Friday, July 7, 2017

The answers that hurt



God's timing. It's always right isn't it? But it hurts sometimes.

In my short twenty years of living I've come to learn this a few times.

I grew up a competitive power tumbler. It was my everything. I carried a little notebook to school with me and wrote my tumbling goals in it. When I was at the gym I was happy. And when my head would hit the pillow at the end of the day I'd dream of leotards and back flips.

Maybe you've heard this story if you know me very well. But as I was finishing my junior year I competed at the Power Tumbling Utah State Championships. I did the best I'd ever done and found myself with a silver medal and a score that qualified me for what would have been my fourth national championships.

I had it made. Or so I thought. But at the time I truly believed I was on my way to achieving the one thing that would make me happy.

Fortunately for me God knows what would really make me happy. And He knew that tumbling wasn't it. Long story short I received one of the most distinct promptings that I needed to quit tumbling. Many questioned this decision because it didn't really make much sense. And while I couldn't see what would come from this decision I decided to act anyways. I did the hardest thing I had ever done. I quit tumbling.

Over three years later I look back on my life and see how much God has directed me to where I need to be. I see the blessings I received from following that one little prompting. But at the time I knew I just had to act in faith that everything would work out for my good. Even if it hurt.

But while I see the blessings from that experience, I still sometimes have a hard time believing that the trials I face now really will work out.

When I came home from my mission a couple months ago I met a boy. A cute boy I might add. I liked this boy a lot and we started dating. I felt like the protagonist in a Disney Channel Original movie. Again, I felt like I had it made. I felt like I was on my way to achieving the one thing that would make me happy.

But I guess I still had something to learn about God's timing, and His plan because this cute boy recently told me he had been praying about our relationship and received an answer to his prayers. As he told me about the answer he had received my throat felt like it was choking as I fought the tears that were flooding to my eyes.

This answer hurt.

And doesn't it often feel like this? Haven't we all looked towards the heavens and questioned why things aren't working out the way we want them to?

I went for a drive tonight as the sun was setting just to think.

I watched the sun set with beautiful pink colors as I talked to my Heavenly Father. I asked Him about His plan. I asked Him why things have worked out the way they have. I asked Him what I needed to learn from this.

A familiar song from my phone played through my speakers.



While I can't say I know how things will turn out for me and the trials I face in my life, I can say that I have faith in God's timing. I know that His plan is to make our lives beautiful. Sometimes God's creative process includes a little heartbreak here and there. But I know it's those strokes of heartbreak on the canvas of our lives that creates the contrast that allows us to see the beautiful and bright parts of our lives. Our lives just wouldn't look quite as beautiful without them.


"Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend."
-Mosiah 4:9

So now I'll trust in that. I'll trust that He knows what He's doing with my life even if I can't see the outcome yet. Because just as it says in Romans...





"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God." 
-Romans 8:28


So to all my friends out there in similar situations... have faith. Trust that things will work together for your good as you trust Him. Because I know without a doubt that His plan is always and forever will be the best plan.

-Whit

Thursday, June 1, 2017

RM updates

Hello my sweet friends!

I can't believe I have been home from Florida for seven whole weeks now. What a roller coaster it's been. I thought it was about time I gave y'all an update on what's been going on with my life. So here are my updates.

Update #1: Recently I decided I wanted to get into better shape. But then I had a piece of cake for breakfast this morning so that's obviously going well.

Update #2: I've updated my MISSIONARY BLOG (Citrus Fruit Sister) for probably the last time. You can check that out! I've also updated my PORTFOLIO WEBSITE so you can check that out too!

Update #3 Since I've been home I've gone back to coaching tumbling at the gym I've loved since I was eleven. I've just been substituting classes here and there, but I have absolutely loved seeing all my athletes and how much they've progressed.

Update #4 Since it's summer I've just been job hunting and spending a lot of time with friends.... and boys.... but we won't talk about that. Boys still freak me out. My handshaking days were simpler times. haha

Update #5: Last week I got to attend the wedding of one of my best friend's in the entire world! Lauren and I have been best friends since we were in diapers and I can't believe she's actually married! They were sealed in the Bountiful, Utah temple and I couldn't be happier for them! Congrats Lauren and Chris! I love you guys!

Lauren and I as babies






Update #6: One of my favorite mission companions returned home last week! I was so incredibly excited to be reunited with her! Welcome home Sister Glover... Aka "Gloves".... aka "Kathy."

It was also a blast to be reunited with these cute sisters who also served in the Florida Orlando Mission. Nothing beats partying with my Florida friends!



Shout out to our "gang" the 4ZHomzies!




Update #7: In the fall I'm going to move down to Provo to attend Utah Valley University. My plan is to go into Graphic Design. I'm rooming with a bunch of missionary companions that I LOVE and when I told my Mission President which sisters I was going to room with in college he just laughed and shook his head and said "Oh there's no hope for that school is there?!?!" and I'm sure he's right! So stay tuned because I'm sure I'll have some really good stories to share come fall.

Update #8: Like I mentioned earlier, I'm in the process of jumping back into the Digital Media world. It's a goal of mine to keep this blog more up to date so if you don't see a post on here for a while feel free to send me angry texts demanding more blog posts. I'm also working on getting back into Photography so if anyone needs Mission pictures or any other photography feel free to give me a call! I recently updated my DIGITAL MEDIA PORTFOLIO that you can check out to see all my latest Photography, Graphic Design, and Web Design projects! I'm also in the process of opening a new Etsy shop so stay tuned for that!

That's about it! Thanks for all loving I've gotten since I've been home! There isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish I was still in Florida, but being back in Utah has been pretty great thanks to all the cool cats that have kept me company!

Y'all are the greatest!

Whit

Monday, May 8, 2017

"Two Unibrows--One Forehead" by Elder Breeden

Hello my friends! As you all know I just got home from my mission in Florida a couple weeks ago. When I was in Florida I met some pretty cool cats that I became good friends with. Last week I got an email from one of those friends named Elder Breeden. Elder Breeden and I served around each other near the end of my mission and he's a pretty funny missionary. I liked the story he shared so much that I asked him if I could share it with y'all. Enjoy!

-Whit


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I want to tell you a story that I was reminded of this morning. You've all heard it at one point or another, but I believe it'd be fitting to illustrate what's happening in Minneola this week. The was I was reminded of it was because of this old picture of me that Elder Carver found.

image1.PNG

Most of you have seen that unibrow in real life. Some of you have not. I won't go into details on the brow itself, but I will tell you what it did for me. It drew teasing when it first emerged from my forehead in middle school, and it still turned heads all the way into my missionary service. It was a source of pride in high school. It was essentially a brown hairy mormon birdie to the world, and the world responded with a thumbs up. All the world, that is, except Florida. Elder Husbands, if any of you remember him, wisely said "That is the ugliest thing I have ever seen on anybody's forehead! If you do what was that thing today you will never baptize anyone, and you will fail at your mission!" He and many other missionaries begged me to tear the two caterpillars apart, but I would not, until the gentle nudging of Elder Hawkins persuaded me to try it out, and grow it back if I didn't like it. 

Though I wasn't instantly converted, I liked the attention. So I would let it grow back and then wax it each time I got a haircut. Although Elder Carver did have a big part in thinning back the hair on the bridge of my nose the real confirmation came after the trial of my faith. Only after I had declared to the world through a photo sent home that I had two eyebrows instead of one did I receive an email which brought me the satisfaction I needed and the giddiness I sought after. An old friend replied, and though I couldn't find the email itself today, I remember the words she wrote exactly. (Pay attention to the gender specific pronoun I used and to the fact that I like that gender a lot.) "Why are you hot now?" were the words, that joyous phrase! Not only did someone think I was hot, but a girl did! A girl who lived over 3,000 miles away, and had no reason to be anything less than honest with me! Through the gentle nudgings of friends, I had achieved what I had never even dreamed of achieving with my unibrow! Yes, it was good and beneficial at the time I had it, and it even propelled me forward at times, but it needed to be pruned back before it outgrew itself. Although I miss it some days I don't long for it, because as my dear old friend says, I am "hot now." And that hotness came from the beauty that change is, and that it brings.

Don't think this email is about my hotness, because if you've seen Jonny Bravo, you'd know I am far from being the hottest youngster on earth. The change I went through in that story is meant to reflect what has happened this week. Lots of changes have affected this area, and I'm anticipating a lot of growth and development in my missionary abilities. We had a zone conference on Thursday where I found out that I'm actually terrible teacher, and if I'm right everyone else in our mission did too. But Elder Dodson and I have studied up on goal setting and planning, and we hope that that will bring the discipline necessary to change. Our ward boundaries also got realigned. For those of you who don't know, a ward is what we call a congregation in our church, and its geographical boundaries are determined by serious study of the number of church members and the speed of the current growth and projected growth, and after serious consideration and a lot of prayer, the Spirit confirms to them whether their plans for are the Lord's will or not. So yesterday, the Clermont ward essentially annexed part of the Minneola ward. We lost a lot of strong members, including those who inspired last week's email that I made friends with. But with the strength that's left the Lord will prosper us as long as we work hard, trusting in His direction.

Even though change is difficult, and differences are scary, I know that we can change for the better and still be true to ourselves. Just like Dr. King said, "It's all good." Here's a video the church made in the '90s, it's pretty funny.


And another one you can actually take seriously that's related to change.



-Elder Clay Breeden

Friday, April 21, 2017

Confessions of an RM






























I returned home from my mission not even 10 days ago and I have a confession to make...

I'd rather be in Florida.

Coming home is something every missionary thinks about. Will there be a crowd at the airport? How many people will come to my homecoming? Will my younger siblings be taller than me? How am I going to adjust back to being a "normal human?"

Towards the end of my mission going home was something I began to look forward to. I was excited to experience the departing temple trip with my mission president and I heard the final testimony meeting in the mission home was a spiritual experience. Those experiences didn't disappoint.

At our departing temple trip we were sitting in one of the sealing rooms with our mission president and he directed our attention to a magnificent chandelier. He pointed out the ever so subtle movement of the chandelier and how it it was that subtle movement that caused the chandelier to sparkle. He talked about how each of us had created a little movement in Florida and had left a little sparkle all over the state.

Flash forward a couple weeks and now I'm back in Utah feeling a little less sparkly.

For the first week after coming home I felt like a celebrity. When people would see me for the first time they would scream and run to give me hugs. Everyone wanted to take pictures with me to put on social media. Quite a crowd gathered to hear me speak at my homecoming. I felt like I was on top of the world.






























But now the excitement has started to wear off and people are getting used to having me around again. My siblings are back in school during the day and my parents are back to work. My friends are busy with their jobs and school and some of them their new husbands. And I was left at home to try to navigate registering for school and looking for jobs. I would be lying to say it is easy to feel the same kind of fulfillment from day to day as I did when I was knocking doors and preaching the gospel in Florida.

And that's to be expected.

For eighteen months I wore the Savior's name on my chest and I did His work 24/7. I had thousands of people praying for me on a daily basis that I don't even know. I had purpose and I knew exactly what I was supposed to do every second of the day. In all reality it was easy to be successful. But the moment you take off that name tag and people stop calling you "sister" those prayers aren't for you anymore and your focus starts to shift a little.

As a returned missionary you are thrown right back into the environment you were in before you left. The world around you is basically the same as it was, but you're a little different. It's like trying to put on a pair of shoes that you used to wear in the eighth grade. They used to fit great, but now they make your toes curl and give you blisters when you walk. It's uncomfortable and awkward at first.

But if I've learned anything over these last ten days of being a returned missionary is that the Savior still loves me. I know that even though I don't wear His name on my chest anymore, He is still proud of me every time I do something for Him. Weather it's unloading the dishwasher for my mom or sending an uplifting email to my friend that's still on a mission. He's happy with the service I've already given to Him and He wants me to continue to seek opportunities to serve.

I've also learned that I'm not expected to be perfect. When I first got home I expected myself to be perfect. And I was shocked when I made mistakes. But I know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is still applicable for Returned Missionaries. And if anything, we, as returned missionaries should understand the need for Jesus Christ's Atonement even more than we did before.

He wants us to keep trying. He wants us to improve ourselves.

So that's where I'm at now. I'm in a slightly less sunny state trying to learn how to sparkle again.

And He's never left my side.