He just wants me to be me

I need to start posting these things earlier. I made this goal to post something uplifting to social media every week, and then I forget to do it until right before I go to bed. It feels good, though, to reflect a little before I lie down. So all in all not bad.

Happy Sunday!

I went to a regional conference today where Richard G. Scott spoke, and he said some really neat things about prayer:

"Don’t worry about your clumsily expressed feelings. Just talk to your compassionate, understanding Father. You are His precious child whom He loves perfectly and wants to help. As you pray, recognize that Father in Heaven is near and He is listening."

I'm just grateful that God will meet us where we are. He'll greet us if we run to Him, like Martha. And He'll teach us. But on the days when we just can't, He'll still be there. Like how he came to Mary, and wept with her (John 11). I'm glad to know that He doesn't expect me to be like anyone else or have the strength or ability or reactions that others might have. He just wants me to be me, and that's a wonderful thing.

Have a great week!

P.S. The picture is from a great video, if you have the time/desire to watch it:


First of all, I want to update you on my progress with my goals—they're going really well! I'm surprised by how easy it is to save water now that I'm aware. I'm not sure how much this will help, in all practicality, but it has definitely made me more conscious of the blessings I have. Turning of my water turns my thoughts to those in crisis who may not have the simple luxury of fresh water—to drink, much less to bathe in. So I suppose goal #1 helps me with goal #2, and goal #3. Cool, huh?

As for #4, I've realized that I don't use cash. Like, ever. So that hasn't worked out super well. I'll have to find another way to get in the habit of donating. And I still need to talk to the food bank. But three out of four—not so bad, right? Seriously, the water-saving thing is so easy. And I feel cleaner because I spend more time scrubbing, especially when I'm just washing my hands. It's hard to believe I haven't always been doing this. But some people really love their showers, and I think that's okay. I think it's all about finding ways to do what you can, no matter how small it is. But it certainly isn't about self-denial.

And since I'm talking about goals, I have another goal to share with you that I'm really excited about! I was reading a talk by one of the leaders of my church, and he encouraged us to use social media as an aid in helping other people. One thing he said really stuck out to me:

"Handheld devices, such as smartphones, are a blessing, but they can also distract us from hearing the 'still, small voice.' They need to be our servants, not our masters. For example, if later tonight you share inspiring thoughts from this devotional on social media, your smartphone is a servant. If you randomly surf the Internet, your smartphone is a master. . . .

Honestly, how much time do you spend every day on your cell phone or tablet, not including school or Church work?

Their use is appropriate, and they are a blessing. However, when smartphones begin to interfere with our relationships with friends and family—and even more importantly, with God—we need to make a change. For some of you, the adjustment will be slight; for others, it may be significant.

I am also concerned that excessive text messaging, Facebooking, tweeting, and Instagraming are replacing talking—talking directly one to another and talking in prayer with our Heavenly Father and thinking about the things that matter most in life."

A few weeks ago I was walking to Chicho's apartment when I noticed that my bag was dripping. I looked to find that I hadn't screwed on my waterbottle lid well enough, and all my possessions were floating inside—including my cell phone. This, of course, necessitated the purchase of a new phone, and so I received my first smartphone. It's been wonderful—I can listen to all my favorite podcasts, read The New Yorker, study flashcards, and so many other great things. But I noticed that it slowly began to consume my attention.

Besides encouraging me to unplug from my phone more often, this talk helped me think of ways to use it that will make it a servant and not a master. One was downloading audio versions of the scriptures, which has been so cool. (Do you realize how many chapters you can listen to while cleaning the kitchen?) And the second idea was to post these quotes. I wanted to share some encouragement without being overbearing about it—to put the things that mean the most to me out there in a way that was inviting for those who may need it, but not in an overly personal or awkward way. I figure pictures and quotes would be a good bet.

Ok, why am I taking so long to explain this? I have to go to bed!—I'm a grannie, I know. I always go to bed before 11. But here's the first of hopefully many other pics, to be posted every Sunday. Sunday-ly? This is where Hungarian beats English: vasárnaponként.

Happy Sunday!

International Cinema

I just finished watching From Up on Poppy Hill at the International Cinema. As I was walking away from the showing, I was thinking of films that I love, and I thought I'd share five of my favorites with you. They're not in order, just a few that are at the top of my list and that, if you asked me, I would tell you to see. Have a great Saturday!

Ikiru, directed by Akira Kurosawa

Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring, written and directed by Claude Berri, with Yves Montand and Gérard Depardieu

Departures, directed by Yôjirô Takita

The Mission, directed by Roland Joffé, with Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons

Amour, directed by Michael Haneke

Image: An alleyway in my hometown. Taken on Canon EOS Rebel with 400-speed B&W film

Cancun and classes

I was going to post a bunch of pictures from Cancun, but have I ever mentioned how much I hate uploading pictures to Blogger? It's the worst, especially if you have multiple. So they'll come one at a time, I guess. Classes have begun again, and (dare I say this?) I love it. But ask me again in November when finals are looming.

Also, I'm listening to this song. On repeat. So if you're wondering how I'm feeling, that sums it up well—quietly, wonderfully happy.

Have a great weekend!

Romney and race

Why am I up in the middle of the night? Or I guess more accurately, why, when I wake up in the middle of the night, do I turn on podcasts that keep me up even longer?

But you gotta listen to the House Rules episode from This American Life. Fascinating stuff.

I didn't know that George Romney (Mitt Romney's father) was such a strong advocate of housing desegregation when he was governor of Michigan, at a time when most of the country was strongly opposed to desegregation policies. If Nixon hadn't stonewalled his efforts, there would likely be less inner-city black ghettos today. A black family still needs at least twice the income of a white family in order to escape poor neighborhoods because of housing discrimination. Which makes it clear, if it wasn't already, that when we talk about poverty we should really be talking about race—but Americans don't like to think that our country is as racist as it really is.

Eventually Nixon—vehemently opposed to housing reform policies—tried to force Romney out by appointing him Ambassador to Mexico. Romney, knowing exactly what Nixon was trying to do, rejected the appointment and resigned as governor. It's a great podcast—listen to it on the way to work tomorrow. Or in the middle of the night, like I do.

The Ice Bucket Challenge

Hello friends.

Mexico has been wonderful. Lots of time cooking and eating, and going to the beach. Luckily the food has been better than my attempts to understand Spanish. I might write more about Mexico later, but I had something else to address today.

I was prompted to get back on and write because of the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has been all over my friends' social media feeds while I've been away. I didn't think much about it, so I was surprised when Chicho expressed a strong distaste for the trend. "It's a brilliant marketing strategy," I told him. Which is certainly true, but there was a lot more at play that I hadn't thought of.

22,000 people are without water in Mexico, the result of a shockingly massive acid spill in the north of the country. The fact that the ALS challenge got rolling at the same time as this disaster is a cruel irony, as one calculation puts the amount of fresh water wasted by the challenge at 6 million gallons—the equivalent of 19,000 homes' daily water usage.

When I first heard Chicho's concerns, I wondered if anyone else had brought this up. Honestly I was a little ashamed that I hadn't even thought twice about the wasted water—and the millions who live without fresh water every day. When I first checked a few weeks ago, there were a handful of articles about California's severe drought, but not much else. I checked again today, and there seems to be more discussion of the issue, in large measure due to Matt Damon's thoughtful reframing of the challenge.

For me, the Ice Bucket Challenge made me reconsider my commitment to alleviating the suffering of others. Especially when I considered my reaction in comparison to Chicho's, the level of my unconsidered privilege shocked me. Water scarcity is a worldwide problem—that I haven't had to face this trial puts me in a very small minority. India, for example, has twenty per cent of the world's population but only five per cent of its potable water. Isn't that astounding? Looking at the Ice Bucket Challenge from this vantage makes it seem terribly cavalier and oblivious of the world beyond our own borders.

So even though there has been some backlash to the Ice Bucket Challenge, I still haven't seen anyone address what, to me, is the fundamental question—in a world where so many people don't have access to fresh water, what kind of message does our wastefulness send to them?

I'm going to try to be more aware. It's hard, though, isn't it? To be concerned with every problem and every tragedy in the world. So many of us want to be aware and involved, but I think there is a coping mechanism that makes us focus on our own lives, because we can't fix everyone's suffering, and we can't take on the world's pain. It's too much—and not only can we not do it, I don't think we need to try. I do, however, think we can put forth more conscious effort to see outside our own world, and rethink some of our assumptions. (I was going to put in a plug for the benefit of learning second languages, but I'll save that for later.)

After pondering all of this and wondering what I can do, here's my resolution:

– I will develop habits that limit my own water usage. I will not keep the water running continually when I shower, wash my hands, or wash the dishes. I don't need it running while lathering, right?

– I will try to resist the collective cycle of outrage and forgetfulness. What happened to the Nigerian girls? I can continue to care about them after the media has moved on. I don't have a very expansive influence, but I will do what I can to speak up for those who aren't being heard.

– I will seek God's help. I will pray. And when I pray, I will not just ask God to "bless" someone, but I will ask instead that he will show me how to help them. I will ask him to let me be a part of his blessing them. As someone who works for a non-profit, I know that we always need donations. But I am also a college student, working to put myself through school without incurring debt. So I don't have a lot to donate. But somehow I find the money to go out to eat or buy new clothes, and I don't think that's inherently bad, but I think more of that money could go to help people in need. I was thinking that I could start by taking every dollar bill that comes into my hands, and putting it in a jar. When the jar is full, I will donate the money.

– I've been meaning to ask the local food bank if I could replicate a really neat program that we have back in my home state. I will do that (when I get back to America).

Those are some things I thought of to get started. I'm an avid list-maker, and it feels kind of nice to put one of those lists on my blog. It will help me stay accountable to the goals I've set.

Life lately

Sorry I haven't been up on posting. I've been working on a couple articles, one for an online journal and another for a conference. Both related to women's issues, of course. The article for the online journal should be published soon, so I'll post a link to it.

The rest of my time this week was spent in a kayak. My arms are killing me but it was so beautiful, I have no regrets. The lake was surrounded by mountains on all sides, and no one else was there; the water was completely still.

But now I'm back in the real world. I'm sitting in a McDonalds trying to finish the conference article before I leave for Cancun in two days—ok ok, my stay in the real world won't last very long. But I'm going to Cancun to visit my potential future in-laws.

So you can still feel sorry for me, right?