Thursday, August 29, 2013

I'm Trying to be Beautiful

By Rilee Belnap

There are days when I miss being young and not having a care in the world. I miss running around the neighborhood, playing on swings in the park, and being able to do the things I loved without falling under the watch of the ever critical eyes around me. My childhood was happy and it wasn’t until I started getting older that certain things were pointed out to me. They were things I never wanted to hear, and to this day I still can’t understand.
                When a girl is little everyone says she’s cute, pretty, or beautiful. So that is what I believed. I thought I was beautiful. Imagine my surprise, shock, horror, and utter heartbreak when one day someone looked at me and said, “You’re ugly.” I wanted to cry then, and I probably did, but when someone says it now I’m expected to “take it like a man” and “suck it up”, because I’m not worth anything.
                For a while I took these suggestions and started doing whatever I could to cure myself of being ugly. I tried wearing cute clothes, putting on makeup, and doing what pretty girls do. Still nothing changed. I was still ugly. No one wanted to talk to me. No one outside my family would say I was beautiful. All the things I’d tried were for nothing. I still wasn’t worth anything.
 I remember clearly one day standing in front of my dresser trying to decide which shirt to wear when I received a powerful personal revelation. I was deciding between a pink shirt with flowers and a purple shirt with flowers when this thought struck me like a ton of bricks. These shirts in my hands didn’t make me beautiful. The makeup I was trying to wear didn’t make me beautiful. What everyone around me said about me didn’t make me beautiful. I was beautiful. It had nothing to do with my appearance. It was who I was that made me beautiful.
Right then and there I placed those uncomfortable shirts back in the drawer and grabbed my favorite T-shirt instead. I stopped wearing makeup. Overall I stopped trying to prove myself to everyone, because in all honesty everyone didn’t really care about me to begin with, but the one who told me the truth about myself did.
So I have something to say to all you girls out there trying to be beautiful; you already are. Don’t let the world fool you. Don’t let other people tell you what type of body you should have, or how to dress it up so you can be pretty. You have a Heavenly Father who created your body just for you. He loves you and cares about you deeply. Everyone else could care less. For them you will never be good enough.
I tried for years with no success. To the world I have the wrong body type, I’m fat, and I have an awkward personality. It doesn’t matter that I can play the piano and violin. It doesn’t matter that I speak two languages.  It doesn’t matter that I can draw better than most everybody can and build things most could never hope to build. It doesn’t matter that I can write music, fold balloon animals, or plant a garden that flourishes. It doesn’t matter that I can revive a rabbit that is near death to perfect health, or help a sister care for a rat with a large open wound on its stomach to recover instead of putting it down. It doesn’t matter that I could hike to the top of a mountain when others couldn’t, or journey to Japan to share the gospel with those who don’t know who they are yet. None of that matters to the world if I’m not pretty. Can’t you see how messed up that is?
My dear sweet sisters who struggle because you don’t think you’re pretty I want to tell you that you are wrong! Satan does not want you to feel like you are worth anything. A woman isn’t her body! A woman isn’t her face! A woman is who she is and what she does with her life. Some of the most beautiful women I know would instantly be rejected as super models, or idols for the world to fawn over. I love them not because of what they look like. I love them because they make me feel good. I love them because they care for me and do what they can to cheer me up when I’m down. They are beautiful because they are daughters of God.
So don’t you dare let anyone tell you you’re not beautiful. You are! I know it! God knows it! And if that guy you like doesn’t see that then shame on him! If those who make fun of you because you are overweight, or don’t look a certain way can’t see it then shame on them! Shame on anybody who lifts themselves up above you because they think themselves better than you.
Keep strong my sisters. You are not your body. You are more glorious and precious than you could ever imagine. You can’t see it now, but you will. Hold on, and know that you can stop trying to be beautiful, because you already are.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Letter From an Early Release Sister

**This post was taken from the blog of Sister Amanda Chase who was kind enough to let me repost it here. This is a touching post about her experience and her advice for other sisters. Thank you Amanda for your willingness to serve and to share with the rest of us.**

Dear Everyone (the handful of you that read this blog :)),

After four months in the field, I was medically released from my mission. I'm Amanda now, not Sister Chase. My migraines/headache got really bad. After a lot of prayer, tears, talking to President Smart, and my parents, we decided it'd be best for me to come home to get better. I knew I needed to do that, even though coming home 14 months early is really hard. Since I've been home, my decision to come home was definitely the right one, albeit a difficult one. I just couldn't be the missionary I needed/wanted to be with this headache. Sometimes Heavenly Father throws these crazy curveballs. Although I went to Riverside with my headache, I thought I could do it. But I found out that I am not perfect and that my body isn't perfect either. I've been home a little less than a month now.

Since I've been home my headache hasn't gotten better, but the comforts of home have helped me deal with it better (at least I think so). My doctors think I have a bad neck problem and a possible heart problem...but we still have some testing to do. I feel really hopeful that this new doctor will be able to help me become mostly headache free. When I was released (by President Monson's son....President old stake president in Provo) he said that the doctors would be able to discover the source of this 19 month headache and that my headache and all the accompanying issues would be resolved quickly. I feel really hopeful. I haven't really felt that before in regards to my headache unfortunately. I was doing tests this weekend and I feel like this headache will go away and that I need to go back on my mission. When I first got released, I thought there was no way I'd be able to go'd be too hard and who knows if my headache would become an issue again. But this weekend I have felt like my work is not finished in California. That for some reason, or for some person (possibly for this girl), I need to go back. I have no idea when I'll get better or what surgeries or treatment is needed, but I finally feel at peace. Knowing that I have a purpose. I have something to work towards while I am at home with no job, no BYU, and no friends (they're all on missions or at BYU). It's okay that I am not a normal 20 year old. That's been pretty hard to accept, but it's okay. I am learning lots of patience. Learning to accept God's will is something that is pretty hard for me. But His plans are ALWAYS better than mine. Always.

Although I was only in Riverside for four months, I felt like I learned a lot and changed a lot. So for you future missionaries I thought I'd write about some things I've learned or things I wish I would've known help you in your preparation. (these things are not in order of importance :)

Spiritual preparation is SO much more important than physical preparation. I spent way too much time worrying about clothes or what I needed to bring. While I read PMG and prayed and attended the temple and all that good stuff, I could've spent all that time looking at sister missionary boards on pinterest on more important reading the Book of Mormon or serving my family.

Memorize. Have the Standard of Truth, D&C 4, your purpose (in PMG), and Joseph Smith's account of the First Vision (page 11). I wish I would have spent more time familiarizing myself with the First Vision. But don't stress yourself out if you have a difficult time memorizing!

Serving a mission is NOT a glamorous task. We spent a lot of time running from appointment to appointment or door to door. Lets just say you're gonna sweat! And sometimes you'll have no time to think. Or eat. And p-days are ridiculously busy. You're not always going to have perfect hair, you'll look like you've been run over by a car when you come home every night, and you may will gain weight. The Lord's work doesn't require perfectly beautiful and well-read and well-spoken missionaries, He requires effort. Ultimately, He requires your will and your heart.

Sometimes people aren't nice. And say really hurtful things. To help with that, read this talk by Elder Holland.

Pray. Pray sincerely and often and on your knees. Pray for specific people. Pray for your companion. I loved and appreciated when my companions would pray for me or say something about me during companion prayers, not just in their personal prayers. I felt loved and acknowledged when they did that. It meant and still means a lot to me. Pray for your mission president and his wife. Pray for strength. Tell Heavenly Father what is going on. Tell Him how you feel. Tell Him what's hard. Talk to him like He's your dad. Talk to Him with the knowledge that He will help you, as you have faith. Thank Him for the tender mercies. Pray for patience. Ask for inspiration and the ability to recognize promptings.

Look for the little miracles. We all know that bringing souls unto Christ (through baptism) is kind of the big thing missionaries aim for. However, not every person you come in contact with will choose to be baptized. There are other miracles or tender mercies to be found EVERY day, even if you aren't seeing baptisms that you would like to see happen. Try to see the little changes in yourself, or your companion, or your investigators. Look for the times when you felt the spirit, or you were able to say the right thing at the right time to someone. Or that you were able to get past a weakness that day. Seriously. Baptism is not the only miracle to be found. If you don't seek out the little things, you'll be miserable. I've been there and it's not the best place to be.

It's hard. It's tough to really explain unless you've served a mission. But. It's worth it. Completely. There were moments of complete joy and happiness. I was never happier before in my life. Seeing people come unto Christ is such a joy and privilege.

Bring conference talks or past devotionals or firesides. I read those a lot. While I love the Book of Mormon, it's hard to read it straight for an hour everyday.

Understand what "exact obedience" means. You'll probably hear that a lot. Especially in zone or district meetings. That was a hard one for me. Whenever someone spoke about that, I interpreted that as "be perfect. have one baptism a month. hit the standard of excellence every week. find new investigators every day. don't say anything you shouldn't. don't be awkward. teach perfect lessons." That is NOT what exact obedience means. For me to not feel guilty and sick about my imperfections, I had to learn to ignore others' ideas of obedience. I knew what Heavenly Father's standards were for me...and that is what I tried to do. Beating yourself up is not what Heavenly Father wants you to do. He wants you to work and try and commit. Pretty sure the phrase "be perfect and don't make any mistakes or else you'll be considered a crappy missionary" isn't in the white handbook :)

Be bold and loving. This is something that I LOVED about teaching. Be bold as you testify and teach. The gospel is not something we need to tiptoe around or sugarcoat. Say the things you feel inspired to say, regardless if you're scared. If you think about it, we are representatives of Jesus Christ and we are to do and say what He would do and say. I know that if Jesus Christ was able to walk with us as we tracted he would NOT be ashamed or shy with what He said. He would be bold and loving. He would see people as they could become, not as they currently are. He would give these people the opportunity to fully accept Him and the plan He has for them. I remember some missionary said that every time they spoke with someone, they imagined them getting baptized. Imagine how much their Father in Heaven wants them to return. If we only knew His deep love for His children we would be running from person to person exclaiming this good news...that He lives and loves them!

Let Go(d). This is His work. Not yours. Because He loves you and knows how this service will bless you and mold you into the person He needs you to become, He lets you help Him in this work. Strive to listen to the promptings of the spirit and He will help you to know what to say. Trust Him ALWAYS. Even when you're working hard and doing everything "right" and not seeing the success you'd like to see. It will come in His timing.

So after all that being said, please know that I definitely had my (many) times where I complained (more than I should've) or I wasn't perfectly obedient, or I taught a crappy lesson, or I said something ridiculously dumb or awkward. That's completely normal. And do not beat yourself up about it. Learn from it and move on. Don't dwell on your weaknesses or past mistakes. Look forward and realize that God does not expect you to be a perfect, sinless missionary. As long as you are striving to do the right and serve God, all is gonna be okay and Heavenly Father will fill in any gaps and help you all along the way. I promise.

I hope this little list helps you all out there as you prepare to embark on your missionary service. Keep a smile on your face and keep walking, joy will come :)