Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's My Party

This week has me feeling a lot like Lesley Gore and if you're wondering what I mean by that, just check out her album I'll Cry If I Want To, or better yet, just read the song titles

Welcome to the life of a future missionary. 

I don't mean to discourage anybody, but it's not really all that glamorous emotionally and if somebody had told me that the emotions would be this complicated and hard... well, it wouldn't change my desire to serve a mission, but I probably would have made a bit of a face and creased my eyebrows. 

Today specifically has been a 'woe is me' kind of day. You see, today is two weeks exactly until I report to the Chile MTC; but a fortnight! And today has also been one of my more serious I-am-going-to-miss-literally-everything-so-much days. Because right now I feel like I'm going to miss everything. Of course, I will miss a lot of things, but I'm pretty sure these feelings dissipate a little bit after you're in a foreign country working nonstop all day in a language you are still learning to speak, but right now, in the comfort of my home, surrounded by the things I'll miss, I've begun to prematurely miss everything. 

Which is a totally lame feeling; 0/10, would definitely not recommend. 

Don't be fooled though, not every day is like this. There are so many good days when I am beyond excited to serve a mission! 

If I were to make a scale to explain my daily excitement level for going to serve my mission in Chile, it would probably be kind of like a scale of one to ten (one being the most and ten being the least) and would look something like this:

1: spreading the good word to everybody that will listen 
2: wanderlust
3: empanadas and completos 
4: Spanish language
5: currency exchange
6: limited contact with family and friends
7: stray dogs
8: the metro
9: Santiago airport
10: Chilean recluse spiders

I can confidently say that today is a number ten. I've actually had the image of a kaleidoscope of spider fangs constantly spinning in the back of my mind because golly gee I do not want to meet one of those things but as would only seem right on a day like today, chances are high that I will. 

I'm not even sure if I can come up with any way to turn this post upside down and make it a happy thing again. It's just one of those days and, to be quite honest, I am not ashamed to feel this way. I am a human and am therefore subject to human emotions and unfortunately, human emotions don't always (and by that I mean very rarely) make any sense at all.

Earlier today I was watching the news with my mom, perfectly fine, and I explained that I was feeling a little 'meh' and hadn't gotten a lot of sleep last night and had a couple bad dreams. She said, "Well, why don't you go take a hot shower?" and then I started crying. I don't know why, I just started crying. Maybe my body subconsciously took that as a cue to start showering myself in hot tears? Maybe because sometimes it feels better to cry than to say or do anything? I don't know. But that's about when I started feeling the Lesley Gore coming on because sometimes you just need to cry. 

This is my party after all and even though a mission is a wonderful thing that will bring joy to many people (including myself), I'll cry about it if I want to thank you very much.

I don't really know where this is going anymore, let's be real. I'm tired and I want this post to be over.

I'll just leave you with this, a very similar idea to my last post. Sometimes it's just hard to be a person. As my mother reminded me sometime this last week, even the Savior, who was perfect, was also human: "And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt," (Matthew 26:39). Even Jesus himself had a moment of just - wow; this stuff is really hard and I don't think I want to do it anymore if I don't have to. 

I think that specifically is a big part of his Atonement for us. We don't have to always want to do it; we don't have to always want to hear that it's going to be okay or that it is okay or even be remotely near the word 'okay.' He was perfect so we don't have to be. As I've said before, all we can do is our best. He'll make up for the rest. I know that this is true and testify of it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Phew, maybe that made up for a bit of all this negativity. I promise (very loosely and with fingers crossed behind my back) that I will be more positive next week. Thank you to everybody that reads these silly things; I hope they improve your lives in one way or another. 

Until we meet again,
     Elizabeth Schomburg

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nobody's Perfect! I Gotta Work It!

Well, it's Wednesday again.

It's really weird for me to already be writing my third post because I feel like I started this blog yesterday? But I'm also now only twenty days away from my departure date?

AND I AM KIND OF FREAKING OUT?? *"Le Freak" starts playing*

And so, that's the blog post you get today.

I've been kind of freaking out a little lately with the gradual dawning of the fact that I'm going to live in Chile for a year-and-a-half of my life and I'm leaving to do so in a mere twenty days. However, despite this monumentally large undertaking that is about to be upon me, I am trying a new technique to keep my wits about me.

It's called 'relaxing'.

I know, it's not exactly something that the average person might think a future missionary should be doing this close to her departure, but let me just share with you some wisdom that I've gained over the past week by talking to one of my good friends who just returned from her own mission as well as my mother.

As my friend and I were driving back from Institute (a religious educational class offered for young adults), I expressed some of the following concerns to her.

It may not look like it from the outside, but as a future missionary, I feel very pressured to do everything that is expected of me. I say that it may not look like this because, for the most part, I have found myself successful in these endeavors, however, there are many areas in which I don't quite measure up; areas that I am careful to keep hidden from the public eye. I feel like I have had a new set of standards thrust upon me that I must fulfill in order to be a good missionary. I must always be happy, I must always find missionary opportunities, I must always keep my chin up, I must always look cute as a button, I must study hard and if I'm having a hard time I must study harder, etc. These have been the thoughts going through my head constantly as I've been preparing these last few months, and I thought that must just be what being a missionary is.

Now, before we continue, I must make it abundantly clear that the previous statement isn't to say that I felt pressured into going on a mission, please don't misunderstand. I chose to go on a mission of my own free will; I filled out the application, scheduled the appointments and interviews, and I did it without needing persuasion from my parents or church leaders or anybody at all; I am serving a mission because I want to serve a mission.

However, with that choice also comes a great deal of power. I say this because missions in Mormon culture are highly esteemed; they're incredibly trying and take a lot of gumption to complete and anybody who is brave enough to go on a mission must be some sort of prematurely perfected being, right?

That, my friends, is where you're wrong.

There is an unspoken and outrageous standard set for those of us who decide to serve missions and I have felt myself being slowly suffocated and crushed by it lately, which is why my friend's words came just in the nick of time.

None of the following may be what she actually said to me, but it was what I heard and what I understood.

Nobody is perfect. Granted, this is something that we know and remind ourselves of on a regular basis. As Hannah Montana once said (hence the blog title), "Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has those days." As a matter of fact, we're constantly being barraged with these happy thoughts that we aren't perfect and we all make mistakes, but there is still an epidemic of perfectionism in the world; the thought that perfection is actually something that can be reached in this life. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I don't believe that perfection is something that can be reached. My personal belief is that perfection is a state of being; a state of constant upward movement with no solid endpoint. Perfection is endless, which is why I believe it can only be achieved in the eternities to come.

But that's not the point of this; the point is that we love saying that nobody is perfect. But how easy is it to say, "I am not perfect. I make mistakes." It's a lot easier to say the former, isn't it? It has a more unified feeling; it places blame on everybody, not just ourselves. Sadly, however, that's not exactly how the real world works. When that great and dreadful day is upon us, we won't stand in groups to be judged on the average amount of good deeds we've done and good desires we've had. No, we will stand alone. Alone and remembering everything we've ever done, both good and bad, and having to take responsibility for every deed, every mistake, every wrongdoing.

Now, I have intentionally set this up to sound dark and sad because of this:

When we are standing there all alone to be judged by God Himself; standing there hopelessly, unable to account for all the sins and misdeeds, possibly even on our knees in despair... that is when we will realize that the Savior has been standing beside us the entire time with his hands stretched forth to take our burdens, to account for our sins, to tell us that it's okay. He atoned for our sins that we might have peace and eternal life. He atoned for our sins because he loves us, and because God loves us. "For behold, this is my work and my glory--to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

The problem with humanity isn't that we seek perfection; it's that we refuse to believe that making mistakes is okay. Making mistakes is part of our human nature, it's how we learn, it's how we become closer to and more like our Father in Heaven.

So, to relate this to my problem at the time, I wasn't allowing myself to make mistakes, nor did it feel like anybody else was either. I wasn't allowing myself to be human. Perfection is not a human trait; perfection is a celestial and heavenly trait.

It is okay to be wrong. It is okay to trip up. It is okay to take a break.

The Atonement is like really awesome insurance coverage; no matter what you do, no matter how low you think you've gotten, you're covered (like a good neighbor, Jesus is there).

Alright, that was a bit cheesy, but the point is:

It's okay.

It's okay for me to not be happy, to not find missionary opportunities in everything, to hang my head a little, to look like I just rolled out of bed (because I probably did); to not love every minute of every day, to not be everything that I'm 'supposed to be'. Who even made this unspoken standard of what missionary preparation should look like? Who's to say that missionary preparation doesn't look like a girl taking a nap, or a girl whose outfit doesn't quite match? In all of the studying and preparation I've done for my mission, not once have I read that I must always look and act and think perfectly, so everybody that thinks that just... just stop it.

All we as humans can do is our best and if our best is only five percent, then give the whole five. The rest is covered.

Take time in your efforts to save the world to think of yourself. Cry if you feel like crying, take a nap if you need to; feel your emotions, acknowledge them, and get back to work when you can.

In closing, I would just like to encourage anybody and everybody reading this to cut yourself some slack. This life is hard and chances are it's not going to stop being hard any time soon, so remember to take breaks, don't stress the little things, and drink lots of water.

I have a testimony of this gospel and of the healing power of the Atonement. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us and that they want us to be happy, but if we're not for a second, it's alright. I know that part of our purpose on this earth is to learn through our mistakes, which there will be plenty of by the time our time to leave this earth comes. God didn't create us to be perfect, but He sure don't make no junk either. I say these things in the name of our Savior and Redeemer, even Jesus Christ, amen.

Until we meet again,
     Elizabeth Schomburg

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Not Valid Unless Signed

I've been thinking a lot lately about the issue of validation; specifically my own problem with validation.

I am an attention seeker.

Let me rephrase; I am a validation seeker.

Actually, let me rephrase again; I, as a human being, am a validation seeker.

I'm not sure I've met a single person on this planet that wasn't seeking some sort of validation. I do it all the time subconsciously, thinking for some reason that I need somebody else's concurring opinion to validate my own. Now, there's nothing wrong with encouraging or agreeing with your fellow man; this isn't a blog post about being more agreeable.

This is more about the internal and personal struggle of whether or not we're worth anything, but not just that; rather, if we're worth anything to other people.

This is all sounding a bit vague, so let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.

Earlier today, I made a few mini covers of some of my favorite songs for a Facebook challenge I'm participating in, but rather than just post them and leave them and go back to my life, I found myself bundled up in a ball of pointless anxiety because nobody had 'liked' or commented on them after a few minutes, so I texted one of my closest friends and told her to listen to them, knowing that they were good and that she would tell me she liked them.

And then I sat down and asked myself:

"Why did I do that?"

Was it really necessary? I knew they were good, heck, I still know they're good. I didn't need anybody to tell me they were good, but somehow knowing that somebody else approved made me feel... better. I had the confidence, but I still sought validation.

And it was at about that point that I started subconsciously coming up with this blog post.

Why do we as humans constantly seek validation from other people? Why is it so hard to be happy with only our own opinion? Why do we require more than our own word for something?

To be honest, I don't have the full answer to that question.

But I can almost guarantee it has something to do with self worth.

In the Young Women's program at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the focus is on eight values, one of which is called 'individual worth'. When I was still in the Young Women's program, I always compared the phrase 'individual worth' to the word 'confidence', which I might be so bold to say is a mistake, and a mistake that many people make.

Confidence, to me, is kind of like Nike. When you have confidence, you just do it. You can just do things; you are confident that you can achieve something and so you do, but knowing your individual worth is something entirely different. Confidence is walking a one way street with a dead end; putting yourself out there. Knowing your worth is being solid where you are as the world moves around you; it's not a destination you can walk to, it's where you are and who you are and what, why, when; how you are (rap that, it sounds cooler).

I think of the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 18:10, "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." It doesn't say that the worth of confidence is great in the sight of God, but the worth of our very souls.

And that's all, in a perfect world, that matters. God, the being who created us, sees us to be of great worth. And I believe that it's not just that he sees us to be of great worth, but he made us to be of great worth. What we're made of is just pure, unadulterated worth; nobody can take that away from us, not even ourselves. Perhaps a more overwhelming thought that we should have besides if other people think we're worth anything is the thought that, no matter what we do, no matter how terrible of things we think we've done, there is nothing we can do to lose our worth as sons and daughters of God. He didn't create us and then ask all our friends to make sure they thought that we were worth something; He designed us to be worth something.

I went to the bank today to get a new debit card but before I could walk out with it I had to sign it.

I had to sign it, not my friends, not anybody else, but I, the cardholder, had to sign it in order for it to be valid.

You are the only person who needs to validate you. You're already worth something, you just need to realize it. Don't let other people try to determine your worth; it's been predetermined and I can guarantee that it's more than any of us could ever comprehend. "The worth of souls is great..." like, just terrific!

We are children of a king, each of us princes and princesses in our own right. Let's start acting like it. Let's all make a goal this week to seek validation from ourselves and to help others do the same.

I know that Heavenly Father loves us so much; more than we could ever imagine, and He believes each and every single one of us to be of great worth. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Okay, phew, I know that was really long and word vomit-y but hopefully something that I wrote made sense and I haven't lost my marbles entirely and gone off the deep end. As a side note to all this: I report to the MTC in Chile four weeks from *today. And I'm freaking out a (VERY LARGE AMOUNT) little bit.

*technically yesterday

but anyway

Until we meet again,
     Elizabeth Schomburg

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Dreaded 'First Blog Post'

Well all, this is it.

The first blog post.

No, no, I'm not in Chile yet, I don't mean to scare you, but I thought that I might start posting a little bit before I leave so I can talk a little bit about what it's been like to prepare for a mission. I actually want to make this post a bit of a disclaimer for anybody that might be doubting my sanity at this time. I will do this in the cliché fashion of a Q&A of many of the questions I have received.

1. Elizabeth, why the heck would you want to leave the comfort of your books and armchair to go off on such a long adventure as this one?

I'll start off with the overall 'why' of this question (and I apologize, but this is going to be a bit lengthy). As many of my close friends know (and as you all are going to learn), my family wasn't always a good, church-going, prayer-saying, God-loving family, which may seem surprising as both of my older brothers have served missions and I'm about to as well. As a matter of fact, I wasn't, by my definition, even brought up in the church. I was baptized on my eighth birthday, but my family hadn't been attending church for nearly two years before that and for close to five years afterwards. I was baptized only because I insisted on it.

Fast forward through a lot of emotional turmoil and several moves later, and you would see that we weren't really a family anymore, nor could I remember a time when we had been. We were six individuals living under the same roof rather than a family living in a home. Then, one completely and totally ordinary night, one of my closest friends gave me a routine call and invited me to go rock climbing with her church youth group. Not thinking much of it, I accepted. I knew that this church youth group was from the same church I had been baptized into, but that was about it.

So, I went.

And then I kept going. In fact, I went to the youth group activities on Wednesday nights for a couple of months before somebody invited me to go to church on Sunday with them.

So, I went.

And then I kept going (sensing a recurring theme yet?). I went to church every Sunday by my little thirteen-year-old self for seven months, and it wasn't just some new thing that had I had put into my schedule; it was something that honestly changed my life. Little by little, however, I began to see things in perspective. My house wasn't a place that I wanted to be, or even a place that I wanted my friends to be. I didn't get along with any of my brothers and my relationship with either of my parents was quite strained. I didn't want that.

And I knew how to fix it. So, after several months of casually inviting my mother to come with me to church, I implored her to come to church with me.

So, she went.

And then she kept going. So my mother and I went to church together and, fast forward through a bunch of muddy muck, then my brothers and father began attending too, my younger brother for the first time.

Not to say it was an easy thing to do, believe me, coming back to church after being in such a downright yucky environment wasn't just a walk in the park. It often seems that from the perspective of a faithful church-goer, coming back isn't a big deal, all you have to do is take some time out of your Sunday, but it's not that simple.

I relate my experience to the story of the prodigal son in Luke. Coming back called for a lot of humility. "And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son" (Luke 15:21). Now, don't think that people made us feel unworthy to enter or that we were looked down upon or judged, but rather, realizing the goodness of God made us feel unworthy, a common mistake to make really. It took some time to realize that "there is no sin or transgression, pain or sorrow, which is outside of the healing power of His Atonement" (C. Scott Grow). Now, we hadn't so much commit terrible sins as we had felt great pain and sorrow, but it took some work to ask for any help.

It wasn't long after I had this realization that I was able to not only forgive myself, but forgive each of my family members. I had been living so long thinking only about myself and my own happiness that I had neglected to recognize them as fellow human beings who were also seeking happiness and in part, forgiveness.

I don't know when it happened because it doesn't happen overnight, but those six individuals became a family and we are all much better for it.

So, now that that is out of the way, it might be helpful to explain how this is my 'why'.

Quite simply put, it's because I know what it's like to be without this gospel. I know what it's like to not feel the healing power of the Atonement, or even know that it exists. I know what it's like to feel so very alone.

And I don't want anybody else to have to feel that way.

I am going to Chile and leaving the comfort of my books and armchair to spread this gospel to anybody that will listen and hopefully bring a little cheer while I do. The word 'gospel' actually means 'good news' and who doesn't want good news? Basically, I just want everybody to be as outrageously happy as I am!

And now to address the 'long' part. When you think about it, eighteen months is but a blink from an eternal perspective; a blink in which I may be able to bring the reality of eternity to somebody who needs it. A mission, to me, is me leaving my family for a short time so that, hopefully, somebody else may be with their family for eternity.

Now, none of this is to say that I'm not slightly extremely terrified of going, because I am. I'm not going into this blind, I know that there will be dangers in Chile that I haven't yet faced, e.g., crowds of people shorter than me, really long hotdogs, etc. *pause for laughter* I guess what I'm trying to say is that the risks seem far outweighed by the benefits and even though it's scary and new, I've got the Lord on my team, and he's kind of a powerhouse player.

2. What do you mean you won't get to Facebook? Can you text? How are you even supposed to communicate with the world if you can't text or Facebook?

I would like to remind you all of a thing called 'email' which still exists, as well as an even more ancient way of communication: post. Not as in Facebook post, but as in letters written on paper and put in envelopes with stamps on them.

Yes, I will miss using Facebook and embarrassing myself in a public forum, but no, it will not kill me.

I won't be bringing my cell phone along either, so y'all will be limited to emails and letters. A lot of people I've spoken to have a problem with this and think that it's too strict of a rule, but to be honest, I'll be glad to be rid of those distractions for a year and a half as I dedicate myself to the Lord, and I think that's kind of the point behind the rule anyway.

3. Why do you have to wear skirts and dresses all the time? Why is your church stuck in the Dark Ages?

I think you mean get to wear skirts and dresses and actually, my church wasn't restored to the earth until 1830 so JOKE'S ON YOU but anyway, while I'm on my mission, I will be an official representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and not only that, but Christ's name will be on my name badge, right along with my own. For these reasons, I will dress professionally out of respect to my calling and to my Savior.

4. But what about your music, Elizabeth? What about your favorite TV shows and all the Marvel movies that will come out while you're gone? Don't you get to see them? Do you get to take your favorite books? What will you do for entertainment, Elizabeth, what are you going to occupy all that time with what why when what wh-?

Stop. Do not go any further. Before you worry yourself too much about my methods of entertainment while in Chile, please note that I am not worried about it, so you shouldn't be either. Also remember, I am going to be in Chile. I think that's probably entertainment enough.

But back to the point, yes, it is true that my entertainment in those ways will be sparse. My music choices will be limited to music that invites the Spirit and isn't distracting from the work at hand. Keep in mind, I am dedicating these eighteen months to the Lord and doing His work, and as I said before, I'll actually be glad to leave those distractions at home. As for movies and TV shows, there won't be a whole lot of that (or really any of that at all), but that just means I'll have those waiting for me when I get home! Yippee! (that was optimist Elizabeth speaking; regular Elizabeth is trying not to think about all the Marvel movies she'll miss)

5. Okay but you're not actually going to learn Spanish while you're there, right? Like, you won't be fluent or anything, right?

Uh, yes I will. I'm going to be living there for eighteen months. I feel like it's sort of necessary and unavoidable...?

6. People don't actually ask you that do they?

Yes. Yes they do.

7. Please end this blog post I'm tired of reading it.

Sorry, you're right, okay, let me just wrap it up.

If you made it through all that, I applaud you! Thank you for reading! I hope that this has answered some of your questions and addressed some of your concerns. If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to comment.

I know that this church is true and I love it! I know that this gospel brings peace of mind to most everyone it touches and I hope to be able to share it with many people on my mission. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us all very much; we are all children of God and He wants us to be happy. I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Until we meet again,
   Elizabeth Schomburg