Sunday, May 14, 2017

To the Uttermost

I am using the topical guide in the scriptures to study about Jesus Christ this year. It's been a really good experience. I've learned about Him being the Bread of Life, about Him becoming our father as we receive His gospel, and other things. I'm now reading about Him as our Advocate. This is the first scripture in that section, and I love it:

Hebrews 7:25 - Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

I know that God is a God of both justice and mercy. But I have recently been feeling in my heart the importance of focusing on His mercy, at least when it comes to emulating Him. I am imperfect, and prone to making mistakes and misjudging situations, so I know I have the potential to mess up mercy and justice in my own life and relationships. If I am going to mess up, I would rather be too merciful than too just.

This scripture touched my heart, and reminded me of some beautiful words from Elder Holland, given in general conference in April 2012:

"Which leads me to my third and last point. This parable--like all parables--is not really about laborers or wages any more than the others are about sheep and goats. This is a story about God’s goodness, His patience and forgiveness, and the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a story about generosity and compassion. It is a story about grace. It underscores the thought I heard many years ago that surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it.

I do not know who in this vast audience today may need to hear the message of forgiveness inherent in this parable, but however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.

Whether you are not yet of our faith or were with us once and have not remained, there is nothing in either case that you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the vineyard still stands beckoning. “Come boldly [to] the throne of grace,” and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast “without money and without price” at the table of the Lord."

Let's not give up hope on ourselves, or anyone else.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Next Hobbies - Digital Art, Headstone Photography, and Swimming

Now I'd like to let you know what my next hobbies are! (Well, I guess I did, as they're in the title.)

-Digital art
-Headstone photography

I got a stylus on Amazon for about $7 a little while ago, and then bought a $5 sketching app, and I've had a pretty good time with it! I know my materials and what I've created are nowhere near professional, but that's not what I'm going for anyway. I just want to be able to make attractive pieces of art that reflect images in my mind. Basically, express myself. Currently I'm working on copying pieces of art that other people have made, to help me learn HOW to use the different tools, get different looks and effects, etc. I've found it very enjoyable so far, and plan to focus on it a lot in the next month (especially on the rainy days, of which there have been many!).

The next is headstone photography, using the BillionGraves app. I was having a hard day last Sunday, and someone I was talking to about my challenges suggested I needed a project. I thought "I already have projects", but decided to try to think of a big project that I could accomplish - something that would take a lot of work, but I could eventually check it off and be proud of having done it. I came up with several ideas, but one of them that I got really motivated to do was take pictures for, using their app, with the goal of getting all the headstones in Bloomington onto the website. Then to top it all of, I found out they are having a May competition thing, and anyone who takes 50,000 pictures during the month of May gets a free Apple Watch! I was all excited about that - until I realized that at my pace, it would take over 200 hours. So... ne'er mind. No Apple Watch for me this time around. But I still have the goal of getting Bloomington completely documented! And I think I will definitely enjoy my time as I can take the pictures as an act of service to those seeking out their deceased family members' information, play Pokemon Go in the background with my Pokemon Go Plus, listen to podcasts or books or music, and be outside, all at the same time! It's a win-win-win-win situation. Even without the Apple Watch!

Lastly, swimming. I did this last summer, taking lessons for two weeks. I learned the freestyle, the backstroke, and simple diving. It was great fun, a challenge, and good for me. I plan to sign up for lessons again, probably in June. Also, I want to report that a picture of me made it onto the website for adult group swim lessons. I'm kind of a big deal...

Anyway, feel free to cheer me on! Or share your own hobby ideas as well. And most of all, if you want to participate in any of these with me, PLEASE let me know. One of my favorite things in the world is not being alone!

Returning to Report

Hello friends! I wanted to report how my first three hobbies of the year went! As you may remember, they were:

-Create a YouTube channel
-Board games
-Embrace my inner nerd

The YouTube channel idea died fairly quickly, as I looked into copyright law. Covers aren't legal to put on YouTube unless you pay the fees. And that just kind of took the fun out of it! My only options are songs I wrote myself, or songs in the public domain. I don't feel up to songwriting just yet. I may come back to this at some point later though. Maybe I can convince people to perform music with me that we record, but don't upload. Who knows. I do know I would love to perform with people. I definitely miss having music performance in my life, and I would like to be able to do all kinds of cool songs, arrangements, and covers, not just classical choir music. Again, I'll need to come back to this.

Board games went really well! I got advice from Facebook friends about what games they love, and ended up mostly with card games. The games I ended up with were:

-The Game of Things
-The Oregon Trail
-Harry Potter - The Battle of Hogwarts

The only ones I haven't actually played yet are Punderdome and Harry Potter. The others I've played, and all are pretty good! I now have some good memories, playing these with friends. One of my favorites was the game of The Oregon Trail that the Porters and I played in Wisconsin. There's nothing like a nearly unbeatable game full of dysentery and death!

The third hobby was embracing my inner nerd. Success. I re-read Harry Potter, plus read the Cursed Child for the first time. I've been listening to a Harry Potter podcast that I enjoy as well ("Harry Potter and the Sacred Text"), and got myself a ring with the words "Expecto Patronum" inscribed. I also got on Pottermore and was sorted into Hufflepuff house. In addition, I continued to play Pokemon Go without shame, made some progress on "William Shakespeare's Star Wars", and other similar activities.

Probably the nerdiest thing of all is that I started playing Dungeons and Dragons. Our group consists of my roommates, our dear friends the Earl's, and our DM named Sam. My character is a half-elf cleric with the personality of Rapunzel / Buddy the Elf. My charisma is maxed out. I am still getting used to playing, being spontaneous, and having fun. It's a little scary to "play pretend" as an adult. But, sometimes it goes SO RIGHT (or so wrong!), and we laugh harder than I have in months or years. We continue to meet every few weeks, and I have no intention of stopping!

So now you know! These are the hobbies I've been working on, January through March, with some continuing on, which is after all, the ultimate goal: finding the ones that stick.