Saturday, March 31, 2012

Expect To Be Surprised

Something that I have always heard is expect the unexpected. That really doesn't make much sense to me... I know that myself, I am a planner. I try to plan for every possible situation that I could be faced with, look at every option, weigh the costs and the risks and try to shoot for the best possible situation. I also on a semi-related-yet-unrelated note, love to compare my life to some of my favorite movies, Dan in Real Life for example. I want to pull two memorable quotes from that movie quickly and then try to explain how I feel like they describe my life currently.

The first quote comes from a part in the story where the two romantics first meet in a book store. Our hero asks casually while pretending to work at the store and just trying to be helpful to a beautiful woman, what she is looking for at the moment and this was her response:

"I'm looking for a book... something that can help me deal with what might be an awkward situation. Something funny might be nice, but not necessarily big, 'ha, ha, ha,' 'laugh, laugh, laugh' funny, and certainly not make-fun-of-other-people funny but rather something human-funny. And, uh, if it could uh, sneak up on you, surprise you, and at the same time make you think that what you thought wasn't only right, in a wrong kind of way, but when you're wrong, there's a certain rightness in your wrongness... Well, what I mean is, more importantly, I'm looking to be swept up! And at the same time, not. "

"Well, you rarely find all that in one book."

When I first met Tatiana it was what would have looked like pure happenstance, a miracle, fate... a lot of things lined up perfectly in such a way that we found each other in all places... Provo, Utah. Needless to say, I was this nice guy who met a beautiful woman who like this... wasn't really looking for love but found it in the most unusual of places. Now let me set the stage a little bit better. I am not your typical guy. I am good listener. I am a romantic. I even enjoy the occasional chick flick or two... or three. Sometimes I can come on a little strong at times because I have learned that it is better to be open with yourself and your feelings rather than try to be something that you are not. I could never do that. I could never pretend to play the part of the uninterested jerk. And I found that my openness can sometimes be a turn off for a lot of people because they don't understand and they would prefer someone who likes to take their time and play the game. So I needed someone special who could find that "certain rightness in [my] wrongness." To put it bluntly, I am Dan in real life and Tatiana is my Marie. I found everything I was looking for in one person and it happens to be her.

The things is we are both goofy and fun. We are understanding and caring. And I have realized more and more that even though sometimes our families may not approve because of various situations or past relationships or whatever the reason may be... stretching to find connections to the movie... but I know that we are meant to be together and in time they can all come around. I found someone that I can be myself with and loves me as much as I love her. And all the things that I thought I wouldn't be able to find in one complete package... well, it is her. I found a spiritual giant that has the heart of child... imaginative and creative, trusting and loyal, where love is simple and pure. She is absolutely amazing and everyone who meets her likes her instantly. I wonder sometimes how I could have been the one that caught her eye. However I love how the movie ends so here are the final lines:

"I want to break from my usual format and talk to you about the subject of plans. Not so much my plan for this column, but life plans, and how we all make them. And how we hope that our kids make good, smart, safe plans of their own. But if we're really honest with ourselves, our plans usually don't work out as we had hoped. So instead of asking our young people "What are you plans? What do you plan to do with your life?" maybe we should tell them this: Plan to be surprised."

If I do get the great blessing to have children, that would probably be the best way I could describe how I met their mother. We all have plans in life and suddenly you meet someone that changes all of them and helps you see how you were preparing yourself to settle for less than what you always wanted. You suddenly find yourself noticing that this person can make everything in life no matter how hard it seems at the time or how difficult be easy and insignificant, that everything is better because you are with them or you have so many memories that you can look back on that make you smile, that their happiness is more important to you than your own. The only word that you can really describe it all with is "Love."

I can say that I had plans... I wanted to get married to some Mormon girl that I met at BYU, we would instantly fall in love and all the money I had saved would help us to have a family, we would be married in the temple, move back to the east coast, I would start my career and I would come home to a loving and caring wife and many beautiful children. There is more to life than the picket fence. I fell for someone better than that... someone with ambition, passion, goals and dreams, someone that I can just talk to for hours on end and never get tired of listening to her thoughts and feelings. I get the feeling that all that money I had saved for a family or possibly a honeymoon to Bora Bora will end up going to getting my dream girl back to America so that she and I can find new adventures to pursue but I guess that is the adventure... starting a life together that we can call our own. Not everything is perfect and stuff comes up all the time that is another "surprise" to what plans we have made for our future, but that is part of what makes it perfect. What is a fairy tale without a little drama, ya know?

In the end, she is everything that I want and need and we are just crazy about each other so because of that, I am just excited to see how this love story pans out.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Surprises

I feel like it is interesting how things happen for reasons that we may not always understand until much later and sometimes we may never understand them at all. The last few weeks have been slightly stressful but for my own health and sanity, I have come up for a little air every once in a while. And by that I mean, I will spend a little time talking with Tatiana and we will discuss how things have been going both with me and with her and typically that will get me centered again. The other day we took that a step further and decided to have a movie night/afternoon where we started a movie together at the same time and we would comment, laugh, and joke around while it was going messaging back and forth on our iPods from across the globe. It was actually a really good date considering the distance, but it was really fun! But as I said before, lately things have been a little interesting.

I finally took those two tests in anatomy and organic chemistry and I am not too sure how that went down... not great but I don't know how much damage control will need to be done. Then there is the situation with taxes, registration, housing, etc. There are a lot of big things... not huge things... but nevertheless, big things that I thought were good and resolved and now they are rearing their heads with a vengeance. So that is a nice bit of unwanted stress which hopefully I will be able to resolve one at a time, sooner rather than later. Needless to say... not fun. And this all coincided when Tatiana and I had some interesting experiences occur on her end.

I have done well in staying in contact with her and her family but in the process of getting to know one another things can be miscommunicated or misinterpreted. In the end, I asked if they would talk to her some more so they could clarify exactly what her perspective was but what I didn't know was that Tatiana was also having a particularly rough day. Her mom decided to go visit Tatiana and clarify a few of things which was absolutely perfect. When God knows that someone needs help, he can use others to help bring the right people together. I would always want to help Tatiana in any way that I could, but when she needed someone there and in person to talk with her and help her (something I can not to do right now), God used me in a way that I didn't understand so that in an indirect and small way I could help make that happen.

I guess what I am trying to say is that through love, patience, and faith good things will happen in the end. We may not always see the forest through the trees but if we know where we are going and continue to press forward, enduring and doing the best that we can, God will help us through. He may not answer our prayers in the way that we would like, expect, or answer in the time that we would like Him too, but He does answer. I know that I will not have to face anything that I can not handle and as long as I am doing what is right, He will help me so I can know what I need to do. The situations that are happening may seem like a real trial and they can even blindside you, but if you are willing to stay focused on those righteous desires and refuse to give up everything will work itself out. Perspectives can change with time. You can be surprised with a situation that can start off looking like it is a real negative thing, but if you are patient it can become a real blessing to you in time. It is not a bad surprise... it is just a new surprise.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Final Sprint of the Long Haul

This weekend seemed as good as any to give an update on how life is going so far. The two major things that I have been working on lately is my schooling and with my relationship. There are other little things as well... Things like what to wear in the morning, being able to schedule time to try and go to the temple, finish up scholarships and making sure that my internship for this summer is actually going to happen and that the internship isn't just a word of mouth kind of thing but that it is actually officially taking place. Anyways, if I was going to move past my day to day decision of whether I am waking up to the sound of "Snap! Crackle! Pop!" or if it is going to be a bowl of Wendell's Cinnamon Toasted Crunchiness, I am going to give you a real update on what you would be expecting if for some odd reason you were hoping to hop into my shoes and see what it would be like to be me right now.

The big stress recently is college. I have a lot to do and a lot to figure out in the next few weeks. I am starting to figure out what tests I need to take and what I need to do to apply to graduate school. This involves me taking the GRE and GMAT this summer and getting fantastic scores on them and also the miracle of doing well in my classes! My grades weren't exactly starting off the best this semester and with four out of five classes all riding somewhere in the "C"-range, I knew that there was some change in order. For the most part, I have chewed and clawed my way out of the hole I made for myself and I think by the end of the semester, I should end up with okay grades. My classes are just very difficult and when i explain my situation to my professors they basically either laugh or ask why I would set myself up like this for the third to last semester... and sometimes I just don't know how to respond. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up:

I am at the point in my major where I am starting to take graduate or pre-graduate level courses of which this semester I am taking two (next Fall semester I will be taking only these types of classes so I think it will be a total of four... oh joy). Then there is my religion class that allows me to breathe and is a huge source of revelation and I have a wonderful professor. Lastly I have my two science classes that I think I need to take to apply for graduate school: anatomy and organic chemistry. Anatomy is straight memorization of terms and is basically a very hard yet interesting foreign language class. We get to look at the insides of dead people... if that isn't cool then I don't know what is! Then there is my organic chemistry class... it is the tool medical schools use to weed out the students that wouldn't cut it in the long run. And I am deciding to take all of these classes at the same time? No wonder I make my professors laugh in pity. And on top of that your grades always take a dive the semester when you begin to date your future spouse.

I said it... my future spouse. Tatiana and I have been doing really well! Don't get me wrong, the relationship can feel strained at times because of the distance, the time difference and the lack of being able to be with one another, but overall I couldn't ask for things to be better. A little strain on any muscle including the heart helps it grow and makes it stronger. Still, I don't know how we are able to pull it off because it is a rarity for us to miss a single day without Skyping. I send her daily emails and little private messages and posts on Facebook and to a variety of other inboxes and we just love and miss each other something fierce. It has been a blessing to see the growth we are both experiencing. And even though not everyone in Australia is happy with the change, everyone that really matters to us has been there when we needed them. We have had to do a lot of soul searching, praying and reading our scriptures a lot, making time to go to the temple, and we are so very grateful for all the love and support we have received from friends and family alike.

My friends here at BYU cut me a lot of slack when it comes to class notes, homework, and all the time I spend talking or thinking about her. Then there is my family. They are continually coming up with ideas of how to make things easier, wanting updates on our latest conversations, and I think there is always someone putting our names in the temple every week. When I think about the situation on the other side of the pond, it is basically the same story. Tatiana and I have talked about when to possibly have a wedding and some of the details that go with that but overall it is still only talk. Mostly because I haven't taken the time to buy a ring and propose but I want to get to know her more and get to know her family before I take their little Tatiana away from them. I prefer to think of it as she is pursuing her dreams in America and they gained a pretty cool son-in-law instead, but again I need to meet them before anything happens. With that in mind, Tati has begun warming her family and friends up to this whole idea and I am so grateful for the responses she has had. If anything, this whole experience has reinforced to me how important the family is in our lives. I don't think we would be able to do this without them.

The biggest thing is that it isn't over. School, waiting to see her again, a lot of things have to happen and a lot of things are always changing but from my perspective it is all for the best. I just need to always take the time to recharge my batteries and then put my head down and keep going. This whole adventure feels like the long haul, but at the end of every race there is the final sprint and it is there where we find out how great our desire is. We have to push through all the way to the end and if we do our very best, we will in the end feel the peace, joy, and love that we have always been looking for.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Making My Way

Every day I feel like this...

I just pray that she will always continue to feel the same way. And I hope that she enjoys the surprise I am making for her birthday. If you end up reading this, I love you honey. Always and forever...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Looking for Help

I knew from the beginning that this semester was going to be difficult. I knew that I would pushed a lot harder and farther than I had before. This was the reason I ended up quitting my job between Fall and Winter, to make sure that I could devote enough time to my classes. And there are always distractions no matter what you do and it doesn't matter whether they are good or bad, you learn to balance that with your schoolwork. But the thing that bugs me the most, is when I feel like my very best is just never good enough.

I understand that it is okay to fail once in awhile but every time? I have been distracted this semester with a lot of different things and I understand that and with most of my classes I feel like I am trying to play catch up. But whether it is anatomy lab and not being able to identify parts on cadavers, organic chemistry and not understanding what type of reaction will occur and knowing exactly which reactants and catalysts are needed to generate specific products, or in my mechanical engineering classes and not understanding how to set up problems during tests when I feel like I understand it well enough to do the homework and projects and papers. It feels like it is just repeating over and over and over again and I don't understand if I misunderstand or what I am being asked when it comes to exams seems like there is a lack of communication so I don't feel like I have everything I need. I don't know what to do. I have gone to the teachers for help, I pray when I study and when I take my exams, I feel like I have it down and then I walk out and I realize I had no idea. The biggest issue is that I am at the point in my education where I can't be looking for do-overs or second chances. If anything, right now I am looking for a miracle. What do you do when you feel like you are able to do the busy work and the day to day but when it really counts you just aren't able to perform like you want to?

And this isn't me looking to throw in the towel by any means. I think I can still pull off an A or two with plenty of B's and C's to follow but if I don't get this figured out and quick, all of those could drop a whole letter grade and then I am in a real mess. And it isn't like it is just one class that is a problem... in fact, I only have one class that isn't a problem! The rest I am just trying to figure out how to survive the rest of the semester. If I can get through this, I am just hoping that this summer I will kill the GMAT and the GRE. That way I don't have to worry so much about my classes when it comes to applying to graduate school and then I can just get done what I have to and move on.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Total Fulfillment

Fulfillment... What is it? Where does it come from? Is it the same for everyone? People have different desires and motivations so how could they all ever be defined? I think this can be a very controversial topic and I don't proclaim or have any prepositions that I would be an expert on fulfillment but over my short lifespan I have learned a few different things here and there along the way. I tend to be an observant chap and I like to think that not everything escapes me but as some of my friends say, "You are pretty switched on for a young guy." Thanks... I think? So briefly I want to talk about desires, motives, and the overall general goal I believe everyone has of finding fulfillment.

When we talk about desires these can be divided into needs and wants. I had an interesting discussion about human needs recently. Human needs were described as four primary needs of being and two needs of the spirit by Anthony Robbins. I will use his definitions as we used in our discussion and I will give them respectively to the two previously mentioned categories:

Certainty - certainty that you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
Variety - the need for the unknown or change
Significance - feeling unique, important, special or needed
Love & Connection - a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something

- an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
Contribution - a sense of service and focus on helping, giving and supporting others

We all value these differently and they tend to drive our decisions and choices. If we understand which we value most and how it impacts our life we can ultimately learn to expand the choices available to us. It is interesting that as I discussed this psychology with a member of his team, that individual was able through our discussion point out various ways that these needs were impacting the way I led my life and how they affected my relationships with others.

I have been interested in learning various psychology mechanisms like this before. In fact, some people may have heard of The Color Code. This again is a mechanism that tries to categorize human emotion and desires into ways that we can identify them in ourselves and in others. By being able to understand them, we can better know how to interact with each other and also fulfill others' needs. In The Color Code, basic personality groupings are separated into the following four color groups:

RED (Motive: POWER) - These are the power wielders. The ability to move from point A to point B and get things done, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of vision and leadership and generally are responsible, decisive, proactive and assertive.
BLUE (Motive: INTIMACY) - These are the do-gooders. Connect, creating quality relationships and having purpose, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of quality and service and are generally loyal, sincere, and thoughtful.
WHITE (Motive: PEACE) - These are the peacekeepers. The ability to stay calm and balanced even in the midst of conflict, is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of clarity and tolerance and are generally kind, adaptable, and good-listeners.
YELLOW (Motive: FUN) - These are the fun lovers. The joy of living life "in the moment", is what motivates and drives these people. They bring great gifts of enthusiasm and optimism and are generally charismatic, spontaneous, and sociable.

The more you are able to understand people's motives, the better you are able to deal with them. It takes time to recognize or use these tools to help you in your relationships but they really do work. I am able to communicate and keep close relationships with all the members of my immediate family because I understand what their needs are and in the ways we interact, I try to make sure that those needs are met. And with every need or motive, there are pros and cons depending on the situation. But when we begin to understand ourselves, we can focus on developing attributes that will make us better, even if these attributes are outside of the scope of our core needs or motives.

But back to the idea of total fulfillment... I love to think about these kinds of things and the reason why is that it is self-reflective. You can examine your life and see in what areas you are falling short of your expectations and standards and then you can know the different ways that you can improve. But when it comes to finding personal fulfillment, true and real joy, there is only one real way of finding that and it comes from the gospel. I know that real peace, real comfort, sincerity, love, and purpose come from living and understanding the gospel. And it is no coincidence that by living the gospel we begin to understand it more. If we are willing to be an instrument in God's hands by serving the people around us, standing firm to our standards and values, we can find a way to fulfill all of the needs that I previously mentioned. Most importantly though is the fact that by living the way that Christ showed us through His life, we become like Him. We find strength and power as God blesses us with the Spirit and with the gifts of the Spirit. People can look wherever they wish to find total fulfillment but I know that there is no other way than by Him. It is what makes Him who He is. There is no real reason in living life unless you are getting the most out of it, so you might as well live righteously because the joy and blessings you find through that will never fade... hence, total fulfillment.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Blessings of the Temple

I have always known that God was out there and that He listened to our prayers. Some people struggle with faith and have issues praying to any God. But I have always looked at the life around me and known that there had to be a divine Creator. The probability that all that has happened and continues to happen in our world or even within our own bodies, we still struggle to understand, but just because we don't understand doesn't mean that the miracle that is life isn't all around us. I was raised a Christian and was taught how to pray. Still, learning is typically an experience-based process and it wasn't until I really tried, had a real purpose to pray, that I was able to understand that prayer is a form of communication and not just worship.

When we pray there is a process. It is being willing to really want what you are praying for. It is studying it out, meditating on all the possibilities, and then once you have made a decision, be willing when you pray to be open to whatever answer you receive. Even if that answer is a no. Then when you pray, like you do in any conversation where you are asking for direction, you explain yourself, you ask, and then you listen. God speaks but in the most interesting ways. I have had experiences where He answers through the scriptures, so have them handy. You might find a specific verse that answers so clearly your question that you will remember the experience forever. Other times, you have ideas or thoughts or questions come into your mind that might be so subtle that you might not recognize as coming from God but you might mistake them as your own. Then there is the burning in the bosom. I have never felt a fire in my chest so that isn't what I think God was talking about. It is a sense of confidence, love, peace, and assurity that feels so right and good that it is indescribable.

Sometimes the answers aren't so clear. God isn't going to answer our every question. Sometimes there isn't one good answer so He allows us to grow but making our own decision. And sometimes the answer is a no and that comes by when we pray that we have an absence of mind. Sometimes He allows us to head just far enough down another path so that we can realize that it was the wrong one. He does this because then we won't question our decision later. It is an interesting process like I said and it takes a lifetime to learn. But once you have had a spiritual experience by receiving those answers, then you know. You know that He is there and that He answers prayers because those experiences will stay with you forever.

The reason this post is called the blessings of the temple is because temples are special and sacred places for us as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The temple is a place that we go to worship and make sacred covenants, sacred promises to God, to live a life that is in accordance to His will. In response we are blessed with a life of purpose, knowledge, and we receive an added portion of the Spirit and special blessings that will last for eternity. One of these blessings is the ability to have an eternal family. When most people are married we say that they are married "until death do they part." This is pretty much a signed seal of divorcement when we pass from this life to the next. In our religion we believe in a life after death and that if we are married by the proper authority, by the priesthood which is the power of God given to Man to bless us and act in His name, then we can married and sealed for time and all eternity. The purpose of the gospel is to become like God by following the example of the Savior. And to become like our Savior we need to learn more about Him and about Our Heavenly Father. We do this at the temple. In essence the temple is the House of God, where we learn and receive special blessings so that we can learn to become more like God because we are His children. We are all a child of God.

I have been able in the last few months to spend a lot of time visiting the temple both by myself and with Tatiana. It has been a huge blessing for the both of us. We learned more about ourselves, about our relationship with God, our relationship with each other, and what we need to do in our futures. I have been able to receive so many answers for what I need to do in last few weeks. It helps me realize that no matter what, God wants to bless us, He has a plan, and if we are willing to live righteously, He will reveal this plan to us. Miracles really do happen in our day. God reveals miracles to us only after the trial of our faith. He does not reveal himself through miracles, He only confirms himself to those that believe. Those answers that I was waiting for... They came. God is good.