Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pondering During Sacrament

During the sacrament at church today, I did a lot of thinking. I was visiting my friend’s home ward because she was giving her mission farewell talk. I thought of her and how she would soon be with the people of San Antonio, Texas. I thought of the people she would meet, and those who would accept the joyous message of the gospel, and of those who wouldn’t. And I felt so much love and appreciation for the people who go out there and at least try to deliver that message.

I thought about how much of our lives can be determined by the seemingly small actions of others. You hear stories about somebody who had been contemplating suicide but received a smile from a stranger and changed their mind. You may have received a simple call from a friend on a day where you just needed it. One small choice while driving can drastically affect the lives of others. Letting someone over when they signal, or cutting them off, are both very small decisions that can make a big difference in the scheme of things.

I thought about how I got where I was sitting this afternoon. I thought about where I am in life and how much happiness I have. The talks were focused on the topic of “burdens.” We all have them. But I understand that they’re needed, and I understand why. How is it that I’m so lucky to have this understanding?

It’s because of others.

I sat and thought about the numerous hands that were placed in my life that made huge differences. I don’t remember exactly how I got invited to church, but I know my friend Ashleigh Haren had a part in it, before she was even my friend.

Her family took me to church every Sunday. They lived two streets down. They probably didn’t consider this to be a very big deal. But they helped me form the habit and the desire to go to church every single week starting from age 7. It’s a habit that I kept after they moved away when I was 13.

My Utah family driving all the way down for my baptism and confirmation... My great-grandparents sending me a subscription to the Friend Magazine when I was little made me aware of what kind of person I wanted to be. 

 The Duvalls took over as my weekly ride to church. It was totally out of their way for them to come get me, but they did. They sustained my weekly habit until I was 16.

Then I had a license and a car. I kept going every Sunday. People expected me to be there. I needed to be there. Bishop Nielson allowed me to serve as the Laurels President when I was in high school, in spite of struggles he knew I had. Learning to serve in a calling was important to my growth as a member of the church. 

My sister Shivani and the Petrell family also took me to church. They invited me to Family Home Evening on a few occasions. The first time I ever saw the picture of Christ in Gethsemane was because it was hanging in their hallway. Aunt Roxanne picked me up for seminary. I already knew the Lord because I felt His presence in their home. 

 Primary teachers in Sunday school, teachers in Young Women’s… All of these people had a hand in educating me. Some taught me how to even look up a verse in my Book of Mormon. One printed cute little quotes and things to put in my scriptures. Others expressed love to me. They all prepared and prayed and led by example.

Sister Spencer gave me my Young Women’s medallion even though I hadn’t really completed the Personal Progress program. In her infinite wisdom, she felt I deserved and needed that recognition because I didn’t have the same support at home that the other young women had. I still have that medallion, and it means the world to me that she felt I deserved it. 

Sister Stefan and Sister Hertzberg so diligently visited my mom. They showed me the meaning of what it was to visit teach, and how to love and serve their visiting teachee. This formed a strong testimony of visiting teaching in my heart, one that I still have and continue to act on in my calling.

All the families at church, loving each other, showing me how it needed to be done... I gained a desire to have that someday.

So many people… I am so overwhelmed by it.

Granted, I was born a “good kid,” as my parents can confirm. I am a blue personality. I am a perfectionist. I have always naturally desired to do what was right; I’ve always had integrity and a desire to achieve. When the opportunity came along to do what I felt I needed to do on Sundays, I readily accepted. But what on earth would I have done if nobody had invited me? What if Ashleigh and her family, and the Petrells, and the Duvalls, and everyone else hadn’t given me the opportunity?

I probably wouldn’t have been sitting at church today. I probably wouldn’t have gone to BYU. I wouldn’t have had a number of the relationships I’ve had, or learned from them or their families. I certainly wouldn’t have the hope and understanding I have in my life. I know a lot of things in my life would be much different, much more difficult.

The balance and focus and direction that I have is due to the gospel. It’s due to those who presented it to me, who invited me in. My fate rested largely in the hands of others. It depended upon the obedience of others, His disciples who were acting on His behalf, being a tool to build His kingdom.

And I am so grateful. I am so grateful the Lord placed these people in my life. I’m so grateful He gave them the courage to invite me. I’m grateful for the people who prepared for church, who were just acting in His name always, making an impact on me without even knowing it. I’m grateful for those who were open to promptings, who were worthy of promptings, and who followed those promptings on my behalf.

I am so blessed. I hope I can bless others also. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Workout Wednesday: At-Home Workouts

It's funny how much pride I used to take in my annual number of gym check-ins. I now take pride more in how hard I can work without having to go to the gym to do it. Don't get me wrong. I still love the place. I just would like to be able to get a good workout in at either my apartment complex gym or in my actual apartment. Remember, it needs to be easy (in a sense) if I'm going to make myself do it.

I've mentioned before that I often use a blog for my workouts, and I modify according to what is available to me. Sometimes I even make it harder. But I thought I'd share just a few of my favorite "at-home" workouts that require minimal or no equipment. I've even done these at hotels and things when gym equipment was either taken or nonexistent.

1. The 15 Minute Workout

I love this one because of its flexibility. If I felt like running 2 miles, I could come back and do a single 15-minute round of this afterward and call it good for the day. I like it because it utilizes intervals, combining both cardio and strength. I find it sufficiently challenging, especially twice through. The jump squats are killer.

2. The Fitness At Home Workout

This is one of my favorites. It takes me about 8 minutes for one round of this, if I remember correctly (it's been a couple of months). So I usually do two or three rounds, depending on whether I plan to include running.

3. Vevian's 100 Workout

Honestly, I think I've only done this one once or twice. With 180 jumping jacks, 140 crunches, 120 squats, and 100 leg lifts, you probably won't find this super easy. Especially with the running at the end.

4. Jillian's Shred

Circuit 1
30 seconds push-ups
60 seconds squat and press
repeat set

30 seconds jumping jacks
30 seconds jump rope
repeat set

30 seconds regular crunch
30 seconds reverse crunch

Circuit 2
30 seconds static squat with dumbbell row
60 seconds lunge with bicep curl
repeat set

30 seconds butt kicks
30 seconds punches
repeat set

30 seconds oblique crunches (right)
30 seconds oblique crunches (left)

Circuit 3
30 seconds chest flies
60 seconds side lunge with shoulder raise
repeat set

30 seconds jumping jacks
30 seconds jump rope
30 seconds butt kicks
30 seconds punches

60 seconds bicycle crunches

Jillian's Shred is one of my favorites because it is short (6 minutes per circuit), she uses intervals, and combines strength movements using large and small muscle groups. I like how she hits all the major areas, and I feel like if I need something quick and well-rounded, this is the workout to do. Plus, I can do it without the video!

5. 7 Day Arm Challenge - Click here

I think I've shared this before, but I like it a lot. It's good if I've done some running and just want another 5-10 minutes of straight lifting. I kind of pick one of the workouts depending on what I want to get done and what I have time for.

6. The All Cardio Challenge

I have this one saved on my phone and have only done it a couple of times. I like this because it's a lot of plyometric cardio. It's good if you need a break from running or don't want to sit on a bicycle or die on the stair master. I've even combined this with the arm workout above. It may not be enough on its own, but it's part of a balanced workout. ;)

Anyway, those are just a few of my favorites. I often try things from my Fitness Magazine and such to switch it up. But these are some of my go-to workouts. To see more pre-made workouts, articles, and links with videos for workouts, try my Sweat board on Pinterest. Hope it helps!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Two Book Reviews

Book One – Book of Mormon

Guess what, guys? I finished a couple of books recently. On Sunday, July 27, I finished my second (ever) cover-to-cover read of one of my favorite books: The Book of Mormon. It took me over two years to do it. Yikes. I probably shouldn’t advertise that fact, but it’s real, and I try to be too.

I started it back in May 2012. The challenge came from the Murray YSA stake to have The Book of Mormon read by September in time for stake conference. I accepted this challenge because of its uniqueness. 

They gave us a card with a square for each chapter. The directions say, “Get a clean paperback copy and as you read it, highlight in different colors:
- Each reference to Jesus Christ (any of his names or pronouns referring to him)
- His words (spoken by Him or by prophets when they say, ‘thus saith the Lord’)
- His attributes
- The doctrines and principles contained in the Book of Mormon
At the bottom of each page, count the total number of items references and mark it.”

What a task, huh? Reading The Book of Mormon with a special focus on Christ? I can get down with that. So obviously in the past two years I went many months without reading at all. I was very inconsistent, but I did do the highlighting, and I enjoyed it a lot. I used the color blue for his name and pronouns, orange for his words, green for his attributes, and red for doctrines and principles. And I finished the book two years and three months later.

I wanted to take a minute to bear testimony of this book. I love its teachings. I love how Christ-centered it is. I love reading the chapters of his visit to the American continent. I love reading how he interacted with people. I love the way I feel when I start my day off with this book (I’ve read a chapter a day this whole summer!). If you haven’t read it, and you want to, please do it! Make the time, even if it’s just five minutes a day. It’s so worth it. It is strengthening. It bolsters faith. It builds testimony. It is awesome.

Book Two – Jane Eyre

Now, the other book I’ve been reading this summer—or for about six weeks or so—is Jane Eyre by none other than Charlotte Bronte. I had a hard time putting this book down after the first few chapters or so. I stayed up late more than once reading.

Anyone who knows me knows I love to read books with excellent character development. If the character is evolving, sharing his or her thoughts, or responding to experiences, I am likely to enjoy the book. I don’t need a lot of action. I don’t need sci-fi, or even suspense. I do like to know what will happen with a character. I think anyone who has read Jane Eyre knows what a strong female character she is, and what a woman she is to look up to.

I wanted to write a few things that I appreciated about Jane’s character. I love how well-balanced she is, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. She faces challenges like anyone else, but she deals with them in admirable ways. I love that Jane is so self-aware. She knows what her strengths are, and she isn’t sad about her weaknesses. She is willing to set aside her pride in order to gain or regain emotional or spiritual peace; she forgives people for this reason. How many of us need to do that? She loves deeply. She has such integrity, and a strong moral compass. She does what is right, even if it goes against what her heart wants. I love how composed she is in circumstances where people treat her unkindly. She doesn’t react or retaliate, or often even make any visible acknowledgment of what she heard. She doesn’t speak unkindly of those who do of her. Jane accepts people in their entirety. She is analytical of other people, notices their character flaws as she would her own, sees their strengths just as clearly, and chooses to love them completely. Although she sometimes expects that good things won’t last for her because of the patterns in her life, she appreciates them while she has them. And she doesn’t dwell on the negative or choose to be miserable because of those things. Jane is intelligent, always seeking knowledge, and she knows when she is on the same level as those deemed to be socially superior to her. She expresses her opinions and is passionate, but shows restraint when necessary. Jane is sometimes frank, but never unkind. I’m so impressed with what a beautiful person Charlotte Bronte wrote, and I can only hope to follow Jane’s example.

I rediscovered another thing about myself as I finished this book: I love a good happy ending as much as the next person. There is something about a realistic, gritty, unfinished ending that I appreciate in books and movies. I love reality, and I don’t frequently like things to turn out “happily ever after.” But I was reminded with this brilliant piece of work that I actually can appreciate those endings, especially if the characters deserve it! And heaven knows, Jane deserves it. 

Something that I both love and hate about literature is how much I connect to it. The experiences that characters go through often feel very familiar to me, particularly their suffering. I am a very empathetic person, and a deeply feeling person. I connect to characters as if they were real people, and my heart breaks for them as if they were my close friends or family. And so it was with Jane. I shed tears when Jane had to make a very important, heart-breaking, difficult decision. How many of those types of decisions do we face in our own lives? I know I’ve made very similar sacrifices to the one she made, having been faced with similar decisions. After one night's reading, I wept the next day as I talked of Jane’s struggles because they were so like my own. I think that’s why I enjoy reading; it is cathartic and helps me to make sense of my own feelings.

If you are looking for a good book with some mystery, some romance, and some excellent character development, devour all 527 pages of the Barnes and Noble classics edition of Jane Eyre. It's $5, and so worth it. I am only sad that I went 27 years without having read it.