What I Learned.

Today, the warm afternoon sunshine flows softly through the window onto my parent's kitchen table, and once again my thoughts turn to the past. One year ago today, I did the hardest thing I thought I'd have to do: take of my name badge for good.

It's a funny thing, coming home from your mission - for two whole years all you do is serve and help and teach about Jesus, then all of a sudden you go back to normal life, which in stark contrast feels selfish. It gives me anxiety. I think I need to volunteer at a boys and girls club.

But I've learned a lot in a year. I've learned that things are never as bad as they seem. I've learned that self-development is a self-motivated process. I've learned that a lot of good things don't last, but the most important things in life really do last forever. Also, the most important things demand enough sacrifice that you have to give until it hurts. And I've also learned that God takes care of His kids, no matter what. All you've got to do is ask.

Of course, having a wonderful life isn't done by living life alone. It's the people and relationships of every kind that make it special. I was cleaning out my room today and I found a letter from a dear friend named Sam. I just want to quote a bit of it:
" 'Truly loving another means letting go of all expectations. It means full acceptance, even celebration of another's personhood.' (Karen Casey) I hope I may live like this quote."
So, to Sam and to everybody else, thanks for being a part of my life! You've made it worth living.


Base Painting.

I have never tracked my own progress on a piece of art before, but I thought it might be fun to do it on my blog, so in between regular posts, I'll upload the weekly progress of my painting so I can show you what I've done. Hopefully, this will motivate me to put in some time every week, and also be a good way for me to see how I might improve my technique. Here is what I've got after my first 3 hours.

I selected a photo of a man, laughing after being covered in colors at the Hindu Holi Festival. I'm painting from a black and white printout of the photo (seen taped to the canvas) and a full-color image on my computer screen itself, in hopes that it will maintain the integrity of the colors. As you can see, so far I'm just laying in the base color. Looks like our Hindu friend got blasted with blue-green the most.
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And She Swears That She's Artsy...

I used to do a lot of painting, but in three years, I haven't started a single project. Well, that streak ended today! I can't tell you how excited this makes me. I don't have a photo to show you, but I'll post again when I finish up.

I love portraiture.
Here's a couple that I've done:

a little self portrait - when I was 16

my nephew - a quick study in oils
(I had to complete the picture from sketched-on gesso in 3 hours

my personal favorite - a 4'x4' oil painting that hangs above the piano back home.

With all the news of horrifying events that threaten to engulf a hope for a peaceful future, it's a blessing to use my hands to create.

I wish I knew who my late grandfather was quoting, but he loved to say,

"Art is man's attempt at imitating the hand of God."


Closet Hobbies.

You may be surprised to hear this,
but I really love to cook.
For the past month, I've been going home to be with my family on Sundays and I've been helping my mom prepare Sunday dinner. Thus, I can prepare asiago-lime chicken or top ramen, but nothing in between. It's either gourmet food or the microwave for me.

I learned about this on my mission: bbq corn - it's amazing. The corn husks often catch fire, but I take it in stride - after soaking for an hour in water, the part you eat just steams inside and never gets burnt.

vegetables are sooo good.

Preparing food stimulates each and every one of the five senses: the sizzling sound of oil simmering in a pan, the aroma of butter-basted chicken as it bakes in the convection oven, the menagerie of color in a vegetable dish, the light and flaky texture of lightly baked, paper-thin phyllo dough, not to mention the purpose of the whole activity - eating your finished product!

feta cheese in a salad = amazing

my favorite dessert thus far - phyllo pastries - they've got a little yogurt, orange juice, and zested orange peel in a sugared phyllo cup, topped with chopped fruit and another spritz of sugar. I want to try it again with some honey. (That's a mint leaf on top - don't eat it)

I hope I've inspired you. You don't have to like cooking, but if you don't remember to stop and take a look around you every once in a while, life is going to pass you by. Find the things you love and then do them.


Three Years Ago.

Three years ago today, I knelt in front of a wooden bureau and unpacked two suitcases of my belongings at the Provo Missionary Training Center. I had just watched an orientation movie with my entire immediate family. Then, as "God Be With You 'Till We Meet Again" played on the piano, I said goodbye to my family. I said goodbye to life as I knew it for 2 full years. My parents, my siblings, my in-laws, they all cried, but I didn't, and I still don't know why.

Today I spent a couple hours looking through pictures of my full-time missionary service in Iowa. I read through some of the emails I sent home to my family, and for the first time since I have been home from my mission, I read over my original mission call. The power of the Holy Ghost wrapped me up like an old friend, and I cried.

I could not be prouder of my service to the Lord. I have never ever been happier than when defending the case of Jesus Christ, and representing my Savior in all my actions as a missionary. Know this: I would not take back those experiences for all the riches, glory, and fame in the world. Today, I stand a little taller, speak a little more surely, and walk with a little more purpose because I know that I am a child of light, and that my imperfections are swallowed up in the infinite perfection of my Savior.


Spring Semester, I Refuse to Enjoy You.

Looking back through each and every year at this time - my time serving a mission in Iowa removed from consideration - my teachers were becoming lax about the rules, wrapping up their final units and preparing us for our finals. The end was in sight. I was going to swim parties instead of class, longboarding Lincoln Lane into an amber sunset, eating ice cream at the swim and tennis club, and enjoying dinner with my family outside in the breezy summer weather.

And yet.

Now, I am sitting in a library staring out at the sunshine, trying so hard to learn about Minoans and the Mycenaen Culture before my first Mid-Term tomorrow. I'm cursing myself for skipping class to go and play. And the end is not in sight. I am only one-third of the way through my term. Harumph. I don't want to go to school anymore. I just want to play, or at least work someplace that will pay me money for my time.

Oh summer, I love you to dearly, and were it possible I would frolick in idyllic meadows of milky sunlight. Alas, I am wed to the drudgerous and unforgiving twin hags of organic chemistry and poorly-taught history classes.

Happiness, I pray we cross paths come June.


From the Heart.

Hey mom. Thank you. I mean it - thanks for giving your everything to make our family work. Heaven knows we'd never have done it without you. Thanks for pushing us. Thanks for making us who we are. There isn't a more noble life's calling to have than that of a mother. I'm sure you know better than I do.

I could never put into words my appreciation for you, and for all mothers. Only you know all the sacrifices you have made for the love of your husband and children, but thank you for them.


Here's to Friends from Everywhere.

College is a wonderful thing. Even in a private school composed mostly of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have met many wonderful people from all over the world, and, of course, lots of the locals.

I want to apologize to you, my Provo friends. Some of you have mentioned that I hate Provo and everybody in it. I never meant to imply this in my last post, only that home sweet home calls out to me ever so enticingly to come back often.

In my life's travels, I've gained friends from the four corners of the earth, and I've found lots of my friends aren't as eager to stay close to home as I am. Spain, Japan, Madagascar, South Africa, India, Finland, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and other places are now called home by some of my childhood friends.

It's crazy how quick we grow up. And it's crazy how small the world can be. So, here's a toast to friends everywhere. Thank God for the goodness of humanity, and for giving man a heart and filling it with love.