Hello, anybody there? I've been lax in my posting here lately and I miss it! I always enjoyed my friend Michelle's posts to her missionary son so I think I'll do a bit of that here occasionally, hoping to keep up with a record of our doings and thoughts and not forget our days here.
Dear Lauren girl,
Hi! How are you? Did you finally get our Valentine package(s)? I kept getting notifications that the things were shipping separately and then delayed because of the weather. I was thinking it was going to be the most anti-climatic experience opening an Amazon box and revealing....just a Reese's chocolate heart inside, haha. But hopefully you got everything and had a lovely week. I saw that you (or at least the state of Georgia) had snow and ice and earthquakes (oh, my!) this week. You're in quite the hot spot!
I'm sure you're feeling a different kind of L O V E this Valentines week and understanding it in new ways. I think I mentioned I've been really trying to use love as a very real solution to little things (and big); when I'm irritated or afraid or down, trying to identify the reason, trying to actually and physically soften my heart, and then replacing those negative feelings with love is so powerful. Really really difficult but powerful. And I've noticed how many of those irritations come from my own insecurity and fear. (How fascinating! as dad would say.)
For instance, we did New Beginnings combined with another ward this year. Before I left for Christmas, we exchanged emails about possible ideas for themes for the night and then agreed to get together to plan it out when we all got back from holiday. When I was on my layover flying back, I got an email from the other ward: they had met and decided our theme! My first reaction was irritation--um what about the plan?! Was I going to be left utterly out of decision making?! (And you probably know I really like plans and control, haha). But I couldn't email back right then so I had the long plane ride to think about it. By the time I got to Australia, I decided to try to switch out my negative response with love.
First of all, they had done a lot of work. They didn't mean to step on any toes; they were trying to help and were probably feeling the crunch of time while I was out of town enjoying the holidays. Also this really wasn't about me (though admittedly my initial response was only about me)--this was about putting together a lovely evening for the girls. And--bonus--now we didn't have to worry about that first decision and we could go on to the next stage of prep. I saw that I could decide to love them for all of that and forget about the irritation. [And let me be clear, the irritation was my business, not their fault! They had done the right thing, I just needed to catch up to understanding that.] As it eventually unfolded, the NB night went really, really well. I'm glad I didn't email back right away with righteous indignation because it would have really colored the way we worked together for the rest of it. A totally silly example but it's all in the small moments where I'm getting practice with this love experiment.
We had a good week here. I had a really productive phone meeting with two of my dissertation advisors and am feeling so on track and excited to keep going. I will need to fly to Boston at the end of March to have an in-person meeting with my committee and then do a whole lot more work--coding and writing-- but I'm trying to treat it like a semi-full-time job and just put in the time every day. Some days it works better than others but you know how that goes.
We had stake conference to re-organize the stake. It was all good but I especially LOVED Saturday's session of stake conference; the talks were really fantastic and motivating. I love those kind of spiritual vitamin boosts. One visiting leader talked about missionary work and this statement stuck with me: "I know it's hard. But everything's hard until it becomes easy." I'm hoping you're beginning to see some of the easy(easier) side of things.
Maddy went to Melbourne over the weekend (she'll probably tell you about that herself) for a youth leadership conference for an anti-poverty advocacy group. (It'll be part of her IB community service project and you know how Maddy loves a good civic leadership cause.) She flew there with one of her friends from school and the conference put everyone up in a hostel during the three-day training bootcamp. She had a grand time. We were driving home from the airport and noticed this fantastic combined rainbow and sunset so I had to pull over to take a picture (of course). It really deserved a standing ovation, don't you think?