Welcome Fellow Traveler!

Each of us is on a journey through mortality, and our mission is to find peace within ourselves and within the people around us, in our immediate families and circles to the community as a whole.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Second Chances

I couldn't believe it. I gained nearly 20 pounds since I returned to the United States six months ago. While in Peru, I smugly thought I wouldn't be one of those people.  Yet, as I stood on a scale at a recent medical appointment, I was slapped in face with cold, hard evidence to the contrary. I stared at the scale's number, and my heart sank. I was immediately disappointed in myself.

My sporadic or half-hearted attempts for exercise and healthy eating hadn't proven effective. Sure, my lifestyle is different. I don't walk as as my main source of transportation. My diet isn't the same. I knew I was gaining weight. I chose to ignore it, like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand. It took a sobering visit on that metal scale to be confronted with just how much weight I had gained.

A hopeless wave of depression washed over me. At the same time, other difficult experiences were occurring in all aspects of my life. I felt the very bitter sting of failure. It then spread like a paralyzing lethargy through my body and spirit. Bitterness, disappointment, and failure tainted my thoughts, circling and looming around my soul and body, like dark, gray clouds.

Days passed, and the nagging internal attacks continued.

"You failed. You're fat. You're ugly. You're lazy," The voices taunted, their voices worn and thin on the popular cassette tapes of my mind.

The tape changed to a much darker, and louder message:

"You're a failure. You can't change. Give up. You're not worth it."  

That tape has had a lot of airplay in my mind during the course of my life.  It's a hard message to ignore when I look at the sum of my life.

The messages have become comfortable and believable, when faced with the hard evidence of continual heartache and disappointment.  

I try to change the tapes, but sometimes it is overwhelming.  I want to believe in second chances for myself, but the voices argue back:

"There are no second chances for you. It's impossible." 

The old cliche of "You haven't failed until you give up," floated through my mind, and I figured it was time to accept failure and give up. I would never be happy.

Then suddenly, and recently, there was an abrupt and unexpected switch in the broadcast in my mind.

A new message was starting to play, one I hadn't heard very often, almost new to me:

"You have not failed. You do get second, third, even fourth chances to start your life over."  

It was a refreshing and unexpected change in my mind's radio.

My fate is not cast in stone. I am not mired to my past experiences, decisions, or choices. Yes, I made some poor choices in my past. I have endured painful experiences. Yet, I do not have to be a slave to my past. I don't have to let my past choices or experiences forever color and alter my future.

I can change. I can start over. I felt empowered and energized. Yes! I can change. I took ownership of myself instead of moping about the failure, I accepted responsibility for my choices. Yes, I have gained weight, but I can get back on track, and change that - if I choose.  I felt ownership of my life instead of victimhood.

I started over. I've set an exercise plan. I've bundled up to go running and walking. I may look like a fool in my workout gear: a brown knitted owl hat, fuzzy black and gray scarf, zebra mittens, black wool coat, and blue pants that I have to yank up.  I probably look like a goof as I run, but it makes me feel alive. Instead of just lying in bed, as tempting as it is, I have forced myself to get up and take charge. I'm trying to take control over myself, instead of letting my past choices weigh me down from taking action.

The same is true with my very tender heart. It's been nearly six years since that tear-stained day that left me walking out of the courthouse, with official papers in my hands, that declared I was single again.

I honestly believe sometimes (okay, most of the time), that I am not worthy or deserving of a second chance for a successful relationship. I had my chance. It crumbled apart. Sometimes, it feels like letter "D" is so deeply burned into the fleshy tablets of my heart, that nobody - myself included - can see beyond that.  Maybe the "D" stands for divorced, damaged, or even dammed - depending on who you ask. Over the course of the past several years, my attempts to start over haven't worked out yet. More heartbreak, disappointment, and rejection have tried to crush my battered soul.

However,  as the new message plays in my mind, I am starting to have faith that there isn't just a one-night only opportunity for an eternal relationship. I have to believe that at some point in my mortal or even eternal journey, there will be a second chance for lasting love.

Every day is a chance to start over.  We can renew our commitments, our resolve, our faith, and our hope. It really is a daily decision. Life is just a continual series of daily choices that add up. And, just because I slipped backwards one day, doesn't mean I'm doomed forever. I start over again the next day.  Even though I have to live with consequences or outcomes, I can still chose to start over.  I can change the channel when the increasingly loud and destructive tapes slip into the airplay of my mind.

Even if I just keep a small glimmer of hope, I haven't failed. That expression about failing really is true. Failure only happens when you stop trying. So, I keep going, I keep trying, and I keep hoping.

As a wise person once said, we are not sent here to fail. We are sent here to learn and to endure. We can be made whole again. We can start over when we are ready, and as often as we need.

Happiness isn't a limited-time, today-only special served up by a sporadic deity.  I have to take chances, risks,  and keep trying, even when everything seems to conspire against me.  That's why I keep going - even when life seems impossible. I can't quit. I can't give up. I can't lose. I may stay "plump," and single, but I can still be happy and find joy in life.  Joy for me might even be defined as something as simple as swinging at the park in the cold winter air.

Life is really about second chances. Maybe, it's even about as many second chances as we need.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Broken Bird

After spending Christmas with my family in Arizona, I rushed back to Salt Lake City to pack, clean, and move on New Year's Eve.

I attempted to pack up as much as I could before my holiday. However, I soon discovered I was woefully under prepared. In my mind, it seemed like I didn't have that much stuff - until I started to try to pack it all.  Time was running out - I had a party to go to that night.  I started haphazardly throwing  into a tote bag, without much regard or care to wrap up delicate items.

When I started unpacking, I went through my Snoopy tote bag that had odds and ends in it. My hand reached into the blue bag. I pulled out one of my few Peruvian decor items I kept for myself - a small, black ceramic bird. On the bird's back, the artisan has spelled out Peru from the base of the bird's neck to the beginning of the bird's tail. It was the only one I'd seen in my travels that looked like that.

As I pulled out the little bird, I was immediately shocked and crushed to discover that my little bird had broken apart in my frenetic, push and shove move that I had just finished. As I held the two pieces in my hands, I felt very upset that my carelessness had cost my bird its tail.

If only I had taken time to properly care for it, protect it, wrap it up in something soft, or been more careful with my tote bag,  the bird wouldn't have broken. If I really valued and cared for the little bird, I would have taken better care of it. Yet, in the stress of moving,  I lost oversight on caring for the little things, and now I had a little broken bird that I couldn't replace. 

When I had some time, I sat down in my hand-me down office chair, and commenced operation to reattach the bird's tail to its body. At first, I thought it would be fast and easy. However, the first attempt failed. The glue wouldn't hold the ceramic pieces together because of the way it had broken.  Over and over, I added more glue. Yet, it still wouldn't hold. As soon as I moved the bird, the tail would just fall off again.  I had hoped that I would be able to repair the bird without any trace of breakage or cracks, yet it wasn't working.

Finally, I realized I needed to not just add glue, but I needed to hold the pieces together while I applied pressure to the pieces to make a bond. I also discovered I needed to fill in the cracks with glue over the length of the crack, around the whole circumference of the two pieces to fill in the gaps between the two sides. I was careful to apply just enough glue, to try to minimize scaring and surface signs of repair.

After a few times applying pressure, and filling in the cracks, I finally had success. My little broken bird is now in one piece again. I've repaired it; however, the cracks still show. There are extra spots of glue that diminish that once black sheen of paint. My repair work looks rougher than I had hoped. The tell-tale signs of repair work, and scars will always remain.

However, my little broken bird is no longer broken. It has been made whole again. It has been repaired. It is in one piece. It has been rescued from a trash can fate. There wasn't a quick fix like I hoped at the beginning. It took time, pressure, and effort, but my little bird is resting in a nice spot on my desk with its tail intact.

I sat at my folding table desk, and looked at my little once-broken bird.  I gingerly picked it up and examined it, and my repair work.  Suddenly, a pulsating electric thought raced through my mind and body. I realized why my little once broken bird is so special. It reminds me of myself.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Conversation With God

Sometimes during the course of my day, I just talk out loud to God. I talk to him in a conversational tone asking questions or just talking to Him.

Recently, I had an actual dialogue with God as if He was literally sitting in my borrowed office chair.

I was thinking about some extremely hard challenges that I'd been going through.

"God, why have these things happened to me?" I pleaded.

"Remember, I am protecting you." God responded immediately.

"Yes," I shot back with rising agony, "But why didn't you protect me from that last challenge?"

"It was a lesson you had to learn." God said clearly and continued, "Besides, if you had known the ending from the beginning would you still go through that experience?"

I didn't hesitate to respond.

"Yes," I said as I thought of all the tender and good moments I had experienced.

"That's the way life is too. You knew what your life would be like, you still chose it, and you were excited." The Spirit explained.

I thought about that answer. I was happy for the life I was to be given? This life fraught with heartache and pain? I tried not to dwell on my hurt, instead the  analogy of the tapestry came to mind. We just see underneath the weaving. We just see the tangled colors of threads all mixing together making a giant, massive mess.  For me, my life right now feels like a tangled mess of confusion, hurt, and abandonment.

Yet, I have to remember that only God, as the master weaver, can see the work in progress from the top and see how the colors all come together in a perfect pattern. God doesn't see me or you as a tangled mess. He sees us as a work in progress.  It is hard for me to remember that perspective during our lives that are filled with challenges, trials, and heartache. I wish I knew why some people seem to have an abundance of challenges and others seem to be burden-free.  I don't know.  All I can suggest is that without the pain, how could we savor the sweet and tender mercies of life like laughing with friends, the sunshine's warmth on our cheeks, or the gentle touch of a loved one? Would I sacrifice any of those moments to be free of the agony or misery? A broken heart and spirit is a huge price to pay but I'd gladly pay the fees because there simply is nothing else I can do but to keep trying.Without hope, what do we really have?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Post-Peruvian Ponderings

It's been tough readjusting to my new American life. I've not given as much steady dedication to scripture study as I should have lately. It's been chaos and confusion as I try to sort out my life.

Concidentely, or by design, a book "No One Can Take Your Place," by Sherri Dew got mixed up in my box of books. I've been reading it off and on since I returned to Utah. 

I'm in the chapter about integrity and there were some thoughts that have come to mind during the last few days. Some inspired by her book, some not.

First, she talks references the Stripling Warriors in the Book of Mormon. These were 2,000 young men who were "exceedingly valiant, courageous" (Alma 53:20-21).  They did everything that they were asked to do with strength and exactness (Alma 57:21).

These questions came to my mind as I read the book and the scriptures:
  1. Do we obey God's commandments? 
  2. Are we trustworthy people in our daily lives? 
  3. Can God trust me?
  4. Do I have integrity at all times?

Secondly, today I continued to read in the book.

Happiness and joy come only when we are living up to who we are. - Sheri Dew
  1. Who am I? Really. I don't really know. I know abstractly some charachater sketches of myself. I know that I'm a daughter of God, supposdly. But yet, I struggle to believe that, to know that, to feel that.  Who am I?  What is my purpose? Why am I alive and why do I have the challenges I have?  These are questions that have plagued me for many, many years. I struggle with self-confidence, self-worth, and other self issues.  It seems though that who I am isn't really doing much in the way of success in the world or otherwise.
  2. How do I overcome this deep question of self-identity?  
Lastly,  this morning, I woke up with a groggy thought: Will I ever find someone who recognizes my individual worth and divine nature? The response to that came clearly : Do YOU recognize your individual worth and divine nature?
The answer is no. I sure don't. I don't see any worth in myself. I don't see any measure of divinity. 

Yet, here's the kicker. I know and testify that Heavenly Father is aware of me and hears my prayers, and answers them.  But, I still have no confidence in myself as a person of any sort.  How can I resolve this cognitive dissonance?

How can I finally accept who I am and be happy?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Gozo en mi vida (Joy in my life)

The last two weeks have been rough for me emotionally. I don't really know why.  Feelings of being alone, lonely, lost, anxious, and depressed have slowly started to wear my resolve down.  I have been waking up utterly exhausted, lethargic and apathetic.  However, it hasn't gotten the point of  not showering or trying to remain well-groomed. To me, in my life, that has been my yardstick of these moods, these dark, and dreary doldrums that wash over me, like a summer storm letting loose over the calm ocean.  Do I still care enough to wash and comb my hair? Do I still put on a bit of makeup or put on a bracelet? 

I try to stay positive but I'm tired.  With the lack of energy when I wake up, I finally drag out of bed, without much time to spare before my trek into work.  Because of this, my normal morning routine of reading my scriptures and writing in my journal has been pushed aside, particularly this last week. 

On Friday afternoon, I had some time before going back to work. I decided to spend some time reading my scriptures. I read in the Pearl of Great Price, in the Book of Moses.  As I was reading chapter 5, the following sentence really hit me. 

Adam said... " In this life I shall have joy." (Moses 5:10)

I started pondering this concept. In my melancholic mood, I cynically scoffed at this idea at first. This life? This life that I have now? What joy do I feel? How do I feel joy? What do I have to be joyful about?  I'm a million miles away from my family, friends, country, language, and home.  How can I have joy when everything I love is so far away? 

Looking back to just two days ago, I don't remember quite how I got an answer about joy.  Was it Friday night? Saturday morning?  

Anyway, I was praying and suddenly, I really started thinking about all the dear friends and family members I have.  I started thinking about all their kindness, support, help, friendship, encouragement, and love.  I started to, as trite as it might sound, count my blessings.  I started to think about the friends I have made here in Piura as well.  

I felt the sweet comfort of the Spirit warm my heart as soon as I started to realize that true joy isn't from things, or your lot in life,  it comes from being grateful for what you have, and who you have in your life. I have an amazing circle of friends from many different points in my life, and a wonderful, kooky family.  That is true joy, and I do know what that feels like in my life.  Once I started to look at what I did have, instead of focusing on what I didn't, I realized that gratitude does create a joyful heart. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Teaching Sunday School in Spanish

One of the issues I struggle with at church is feeling useful to the ward.  What probably started as a joke ended up with me volunteering to teach a Sunday School lesson for the YSA group. Our regular instructor has been in Trujillo, Peru on vacation. Two weeks ago,  Daniel, one of my YSA friends, joked with Jorge (who speaks English), that I should teach a class.

"Me," I responded in shock, "In Spanish?"

They nodded affirmatively.

I replied, "No, no puedo.." (I can't).

Later that week, I thought about that exchange, I felt I should go ahead and tell Daniel and Jorge that I would teach a class.

I wrote them a message on Facebook. Daniel wrote back and said I could teach the class the week after stake conference. I opened my Doctrine and Covenants Class Member Study Guide, and saw my lesson - "The Field is White Already to Harvest."  Great. Missionary work. A topic I can confidently speak about. Yeah right. I never served a mission, nor am I a great missionary.

During the last two weeks, I had a vague notion in my mind to sit down and start preparing the lesson. Yet, even though time seemed to crawl as slow as a snail in January, time also vanished quickly, and I found myself yesterday afternoon finally sitting down to prepare.

After a short nap,I sat on my sagging twin bed as I poured over my Spanish triple, my Kindle with the English version of the scriptures, the study guide, and my notebook.

First, I had to translate the lesson questions into English. Then I read the scriptures in English and Spanish as I tried to narrow down the material I wanted to cover and put it in a logical order. I have to say I am grateful that the church has placed all course materials in Spanish and English online for me.

Though, I started to feel overwhelmed with all the course material.

What was key to include? How would I arrange it? How would I structure the class? Would I use class discussions? Small groups? Activities? Writing on the board? Of course, class discussions would be hard, how could I as the facilitator, give encouragement- in a language that I am functionally illiterate in understanding?

How would I handle ad-hoc questions that I had or the class members had during class? Not only did I need to translate the discussion questions in to English so I understood them, but I had to read  the scriptures in both languages too.  I wrote the English translations on sticky notes and put them on the pages next to the scriptures I wanted to use.

After a movie and popcorn night, I went back to work and revise. Yet, as the night progressed into the midnight hour, I started getting really nervous.

"How could I do this? I can't speak Spanish. I can't teach a lesson in another language. I'm so stupid for doing this, " I thought to myself.

Then I came across Doctrine and Covenants 33:10, "....yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled."

I hoped that would be the case on Sunday morning.

Sunday morning, I woke up at 7 am to no electricity. I continued revising my lesson and kept translating questions and instructions into Spanish.  As I got nervous and stressed about the order of logistics of my lesson,  I reviewed my scriptures again and landed on Doctrine and Covenants 31:13, where Jesus teaches us to ..."be faithful unto the end, and lo, I am with you."

It was delightful to have a ice cold shower and showing up to church with wet hair. There was no power at the church either. Thankfully, I sit by a window, and a cool breeze came through occasionally, but people were sweating, especially the men in their long-sleeved white shirts. I hoped that maybe after Sacrament meeting, the rest of the services would be cancelled.

I prayed, reviewed, and planned how the class would go in my mind during the talks. I prayed for the Spirit to be with me during the passing of the Sacrament.

The bishop was the closing speaker and he ran over time, I felt that was good. I went to the YSA classroom, helped set up chairs, and sat down. After most everyone showed up, an opening prayer, announcements, a scripture, finally, Juan, the JAS (YSA) leader opened the manual and started to begin the lesson!

Daniel and Jorge looked surprised and Jorge whispered, " hey aren't you supposed to teach the lesson?"

I had an out! I could simply say it was no big deal if Juan taught the lesson, maybe I could teach next week.

"Yes, I had planned to do the lesson today." I responded.  It was 10:28 and class was over at 11 am.  Jorge told Juan I was going to teach, much to the surprise of the class. They were especially surprised when Jorge confirmed I would teach in Spanish.  I told Daniel I needed chalk so he went to get it.

My heart was racing.  When Daniel returned, I went up to the front of the small classroom, where we all were plenty cozy.  A member of the bishopric had stopped in to speak to the group, so I was in front waiting.  Finally, it was show time.

I stumbled, I mispronounced almost every word I said. I defaulted at times into Spanglish. I think I slaughtered the Spanish language. I got flustered, nervous, lost and scattered. I had planned to break the class into 3 groups and have them read a scripture one at a time and then discuss each verse with them, but I didn't explain it well, and they read all of their verses at once, which I didn't know until Jorge told me. I tried writing on the board but I didn't know how to spell some of the words. When class members responded to questions, I didn't quite understand all of them. It was frustrating not being able to communicate what I wanted to say. I tried to prepare all the questions, thoughts, and instructions in Spanish but as the class progressed, more came to mind. Thankfully, Jorge helped with translation to ease the confusion.

 My mind went blank and I stood up in the front looking at the class members just thinking, okay, now what are we going to do? What is next? What was I going to say? My mind felt like mush. How do I say this or that word?  Where was I in the lesson? What about those sticky notes in my scriptures? How much time did I have left?

I felt prompted to talk about ways to be missionaries... and they came up with most of what I had and more.

  1. Be an example
  2. Service
  3. Share your testimony
  4. Invite friends to church and activities
  5. Visit less active members
  6. Stand up for truth
  7. Use social media to share the gospel

Other parting messages I shared included the following:

  • We make excuses why we don't do missionary work. We have the truth and we should go and share it. With God, we can't have fear. 
  • We never know how our efforts can affect eternity. 
  • You may be the only Book of Mormon a person ever reads (quoted from my mom). 

Lastly, I said there were five things to remember about missionary work:

  1. Have desire (to do missionary work)
  2. Develop the attributes of Christ (charity, faith, hope)
  3. Pray for inspiration
  4. Seek the Spirit
  5.  Act upon it.

As someone that is so shy and afraid of approaching people, this was a good lesson for me to study.  I passed out the Starburst jelly beans to the class which they totally loved. I bore my testimony but got flustered and lost, so who knows what I really said.

I don't know how the class went, I left church feeling like I failed.  I felt it was rough, rocky, and chaotic.  I should have prepared more and practiced speaking more. Maybe it was prideful of me to think that I could succeed in this fool's errand? Trying to teach in another language you're not even halfway fluent in is a gigantic undertaking.

I hope the Spirit helped smooth out the rough edges and I didn't embarrass myself too much. I hope the Lord knows that I did really try my best. I hope the main messages I felt inspired to share made sense. I hope that the group could take something away with them that touched their heart. I wish I could have been more polished and pulled together. It sure was a lot harder to prepare and teach a lesson when it wasn't in my native tongue. It makes teaching English feel like a breeze, since I conduct my classes in English with my students. Yet, despite my own shortcomings and inadequacies, I know the Spirit speaks all languages through the language of the heart.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

La conferencia de la estaca

I'd been wondering when my stake conference was here in my part of Piura, Peru, where I teach English at a local university. After the first couple of weeks after I had come back from the United States in January, I counted how many Sundays I still had left. Attending church had become very difficult for me then, and I wanted to count how many Sundays left I had to endure 3-hours of not understanding anything during a service. When  I counted, I almost gleefully counted General Conference and stake conference weekend as free passes from church attendance. I actually felt those weekends would be a reprieve from the feelings of stress, anxiety, and confusion that I'd been feeling during church.  I actually considered one of my options was to stop attending church entirely. I shouldn't have to leave church crying every Sunday because I felt so lost and alone.

Fast forward to this weekend, I'm happy to report that I chose not to stop attending church. Through many prayers from me, my family, and my friends here and back in the USA,  those tough times have been overcome. I have felt the fellowship, support, and encouragement from my fellow ward members as well. I still count Sundays, not to avoid church, but as a marker towards when my time here has come to an end.  I don't continue to look for ways to avoid church. I want to attend.

For my friends who may not know, stake conference is a bi-annual meeting of local congregations (wards) that are organized into larger geographical units called stakes. During stake conference, we don't meet at our local church building, but attend a 2-hour service at the stake center, where all the wards in our geographical area come as well. There are no Sunday School classes or Sacrament services, but rather, the meeting features members of the stake giving talks on assigned gospel principles. Also, there are usually special musical numbers and choir performances.

So, what would I do about stake conference?

I started musing on this last Sunday when the 1st counselor announced the dates for the 16-17th of March. I decided that it would be a good free day to sleep in and do self-study, maybe have personal church. I wouldn't understand much of what was being said and it was a far walk, I hated to pay for a moto on Sunday, and I don't have much money, so I couldn't really spare the cost.  Surely the Lord would understand why I couldn't attend - the language barrier, the distance. He would be okay with it.

Yet, I received strong council to attend stake conference. I tried to argue with the promptings - I wouldn't get anything from it,  I could feel the spirit if I studied myself.  Then, I felt that there really wasn't an excuse not to attend. I finally said "Okay! Okay! I will go to the both the Saturday and Sunday meetings!"  When chatting about this with a friend, I wrote that "I knew the Lord expected me to be at stake conference."

That was my plan. I resolved to attend both meetings - the Saturday night adult session and the Sunday morning general session (for youth and adults).  I turned down an invitation to hang out with some girl friends on Saturday night.  Unfortunately, there was a misunderstanding about the meeting, and I wasn't able to attend the Saturday session - but my heart was in the right place, and I know the Lord understood that  I
was willing and prepared to go.

So this morning, I prepared to walk to the stake center, a good nearly 2 mile walk - doable and not a problem...when I leave on time. I left too late. It was overcast and slightly raining. I tried walking as far as I could, but I realized I'd be very late -which is one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate arriving late to a function like church, a movie, etc late. A party? That's okay. So, I hired a moto, which I didn't want to do.  I wasn't too far really, as far as motorized vehicles go, but for 2-legged me, I was still quite far.

When I arrived at the stake center, I saw Elder Smith, one of the former missionaries that served in my ward. He's from Layton, Utah and has always been very nice to me. He was moved to a different area so it was good to see him again. Some of my fellow ward members came in after me, and we went upstairs to the chapel. It was huge! The place was packed with many people. Many more people came flooding into the chapel. Thank goodness for air conditioning.  The cool, gentle air conditioned air felt like such a relief. I had imagined 2 hours of misery under fans and a layer of humidity sticking to my skin.

In the entire congregation of people from many wards, outside of the missionaries and the mission president and his wife, I was the only American there - that wasn't a missionary or attached somehow to the mission. It's an odd feeling, to be the only one of something in a group. I'm in an very unique position. I'd like to think I'm not the only non-missionary from America here that also is LDS, but I'm not sure. Sometimes, okay, many times it's hard being here in Piura, because I am alone and nobody quite understands my position here.

I prayed that the Spirit would be with me and I would be able to understand what I needed to understand.  Right away, the first speaker, a young woman said something that hit me. Or at least what I think she said..hit me.. 

"Dios sabe mi nombre y me llama por mi nombre." or "God knows my name and calls me by my name."   I know this is true. 

Another thing she said that touched me was about blessings.

I wrote in my journal that "tengo muchas bendiciones aqui," or "I have many blessings here."

Other speakers followed and other thoughts I felt impressed on included "Dios siempre esta conmigo." Okay, I cheated and used Google Translate for this entry...hah, but it means "God is always with me."   The church is true.  Heavenly Father has a plan for us.  I mixed my thoughts in a form of Emily Spanglish.

I also wrote "Necesito la ayuda de Dios y Su hijo, JesuChristo por mi vida aqui y siempre," which translates to "I need the help of God and His Son, Jesus Christ for my life here and forever." 

Stake conference isn't much different in Piura as it would be in Phoenix or Panguitch. There were fussy babies, restless children, young adults playing with their phones, adults nodding off. There were people getting up to go after children or go to the bathroom. Moms passed out snacks for their children. People aren't really that different from each other after all.

Other impressions from the talks I wroet down included:
1. Todo es posible con Dios. (Everything is possible with God.)
2. Sabe el amor de Dios? (Do you know the love of God?)
3. Servir Dios (Serve God.)
4. Jesu es mi ejemplo (Jesus is my example.)

Then my mind stumbled upon a thought. What was my most important possession? Truly, the first thing that came to mind was my faith.   Mi fe es muy importante para mi.  My faith is very important to me. My religion is (should be) the primary focus of  my life and day. I hold my knowledge, faith, and experience most sacred and I'm grateful for it.

Next, Sister Rowley, the Piura Peru Mission President's wife spoke. President Rowley spoke after her. It is a lot easier to understand them in Spanish because they have the (good) Utah American accent and speak slower so I can keep up a little easier.  Sister Rowley talked about the importance of the scriptures  for learning and studying. We need to study the scriptures every day. I have truly been blessed with knowledge and comfort as I have read the scriptures here.

President Rowley had all the missionaries stand up - wow, what a group! There were a lot. Then he had the new members that joined the church in 2012 and 2013 stand up. As the people stood up, I felt a wave of the Spirit touch my heart. This work is true. This gospel is true.  The church is true no matter where you go.

I feel about my experience here that I had to break away to stand on my own - to learn humility, patience, and trust. I had to strengthen my faith and change my lifestyle to follow the Lord's plan for me.  As President Rowley spoke and bore his testimony of Joseph Smith, being called of God as a prophet, and of the gospel, my heart was filled. I felt the Spirit testify of the truthfulness of his words.

The stake choir perfomed with a violin ensemble and piano. They sang one of my favorite hymns - "Yo se que vive mi Senior" or "I Know My Redeemer Lives."

The stake president finished the session. I wrote down "cambio en mi corazon," or "change of heart." We need and I need to have a change of heart. We need to let the Lord have our broken, tired, hurting hearts so he can heal them.

As the choir closed with "Count Your Blessings,"  I felt a warm sense of peace fill my soul.  I am glad I came to stake conference.  I understood much  more than I thought I would.  I understood what I needed to understand. I understood the Spirit.  I am glad I came to partake of the Spirit. As I have been struggling emotionally these last few weeks, I needed this spiritual refueling and cleansing.  I need the fellowship of like-minded sojourners to keep myself strong and focused on the finish line of eternal rest and glory. I need the all the spiritual fuel I can receive so I can stay strong in the face of the cruelest adversity.  I need to be where the Spirit dwells. I need to keep my armor strong.

I wasn't afraid to come- even thought I hadn't been to conference here before.  By attending the conference this morning, my soul feels restored after grappling with sheer desperation to escape.  This past week, I had prayed to God that I simply couldn't go on here any more.  I desperately prayed to go home -even if it meant a medical problem.  Why was I struggling so bad and at this time?

Yet, when I left the meeting, I felt calm and at peace with my life. I felt renewed. I felt at terms with my life here.  I felt the power of all the prayers of my family and friends rest upon me to remove the hurt and anxiety from my heart.  It buoyed up my spirit to help me do more than just endure but to enjoy the moments I have remaining here in Piura.  The true power of the gospel  is the peace and strength it brings to hurting hearts.

On my way home, it was very lightly raining. I walked back towards my house and I was about halfway there, I heard a voice say "Do you want a ride?" It turned out to be President and Sister Rowley and two sister missionaries! They were gracious enough to give me a ride home, so I am thankful for all the large and small blessings the Lord gives me every day. The simple act of a ride home was a blessing to count.  I also definitely feel blessed by attending stake conference.

The next time I attend a stake conference, I will be home in Utah. What stake? I don't know, but I will always treasure the spiritual feast and healing I felt here in the Miraflores, Piura , Peru stake conference today.