Sunday, October 7, 2012

I'm Going on a Mission!

I'm excited to learn Portuguese!
The time is here for me to go and serve.

Follow my mission blog at sistervillaroman.blogspot. com. My mother will keep the blog updated. When I get back in April 2014, I can start updating this blog again. I will miss blogging, but I still get to write! Oh good!

Write me! I would love to hear from you.

MTC Address:

Sister Lauren Olivia Villaroman
Brazil Salvador Mission
Brazil Missionary Training Center
Rua Padre Antônio D'Ângelo, 121
Casa Verde
02516-040 São Paulo – SP

Mission Field Address:

Sister Lauren Olivia Villaroman
Brazil Salvador Mission
Av. Antônio C. Magalhães,
N 3247 Sala 402
Ed - Delta
Cidade - Pituba - Salvador

God be with you till we meet again.


Monday, September 24, 2012

"I Should Have Been a Great Many Things"

I watched Little Women the other day. I love that movie. I have seen it many times—preferably while I am snuggled up in a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate in the autumn or winter weather. And if you haven't read the book, read it. Anyways, there was a quote that stuck out to me that hadn't before.

It comes during a scene where Jo March is sitting around a table full of men and the topic of discussion was whether or not women should vote. This is how it goes:

Jo March: I find it poor logic to say that because women are good, women should vote. Men do not vote because they are good; they vote because they are male, and women should vote, not because we are angels and men are animals, but because we are human beings and citizens of this country.
Mr. Mayer: You should have been a lawyer, Miss March.
Jo March: I should have been a great many things, Mr. Mayer.

Jo was actually a writer. This plus a few other things about this character remind me of myself. Maybe that's why I like the movie and book so much.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "Writers aren't exactly people ... they're a whole bunch of people trying to be one person."

In my mind, both of these quotes completely support each other—well, they completely support how I feel about myself.

"I should have been a great many things. Therefore, I am a writer, trying to be them all."

Here's a list of everything I've ever wanted to be starting from childhood (no laughing, I guess I've always been kind of a nerd but I don't think I ever realized it): a mom, a librarian, a baker, an author, an illustrator, an artist, an archaeologist, an architect, an astronomer, an astronaut, a teacher at elementary, high school and college levels, a lawyer, a journalist, an editor, a government worker (hey—I told you I'm a nerd).

For most of these, they were actually pretty realistic. I can check some of them off the list in one way or another, and some are still to come. For some reason, I am just not one of those people that had one thing in mind and went for exactly that. But especially in the past couple of years and in the foreseeable future, I have had and will have many wonderful experiences that don't seem to relate to one another. I wonder what these opportunities are leading up to. I know they will all come together for me somehow, it's just hard to see.

And maybe the only similar thing these experiences will all contribute to is to who I am. Me. Me, what I do with them, and the life lessons they teach me.

Yeah, maybe that's it.

Well then, regardless of what I do to build a life and to build my character, I hope to be true to myself. I hope to never let my imagination die. I hope to always be a writer—a crafter of words, a builder of imaginations.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Bread of Life

My family was so blessed to have dinner delivered to us tonight from a few wonderful ladies in my parent's LDS church ward. It was delicious. But it didn't only fill our stomachs and relieve some stress from our lives, it also filled our souls.

When our plates were cleared, none of us wanted to leave the kitchen. There was a certain spirit in the room that kept us there for a couple more hours. We all just sat around and enjoyed each others company and talked about how blessed we are. My sister who still had homework to do, brought it down to finish in that atmosphere.

I think our family really felt the love that went into preparing that meal. Though to others it may have seemed a simple meal, it was so much more.

It brought to mind the scripture found in John 6:32-35.

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

I think I now understand this scripture a little bit better. As we come and partake of the peace that Christ offers, our souls will be filled with joy and we shall never long for more fulfillment in life. Christ will give all. So how do we come closer to Christ in order to partake? 

When we are in the midst of charity—either giving or humbly receiving—we feel Christ's love. And since we are Christ's hands here on the earth, we must be willing to develop charity and serve others in order to bring to them, and to bring them to, the bread of life. If the offer is humbly received, Christ's love will be felt and souls will be filled with joy.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What You Pray For

Be careful what you wish for. Well in my case, it's be careful what you pray for.

I spent a lot of money (more than you are thinking right now) on getting my visa application papers together so that I can be a missionary in Brazil. When everything was done and I sent off that fat envelope to the LDS Missionary Department, I remember praying that my visa would go through with ease so that my money would not go to waste.

And go through with ease it did.

My visa came through in just over a month. Brazil is supposed to be one of the most difficult missionary visas to get. You always hear of missionaries who get called to Brazil and are often sent to serve for several weeks somewhere in the states before they get their visas.

Well, I can't complain. My prayer was answered.

But that's not all. I got a call from my stake president last Thursday night. "I've been in touch with the Missionary Department. Your visa's come through," he said.

"Oh, good," I replied.

"They want to know if you can go on Oct. 10."

"Oh ... wow. That's less than a month away."

I was stunned. And I was laughing. President gave me the night to think it over. The phones were hung up, and I started to cry. And I don't think this was a happy or sad cry. It was one of those "I don't know what to feel ... what is happening with my life ... I can't believe it" kind of cry. Yeah. Then I laughed again. Then I cried again. Whew.

About an hour and a half later—after talking with my parents and praying and pondering—I called President back and gave him my answer. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep that night if I postponed that phone call. It was confirmed at 8 a.m. the next morning that I will indeed be reporting to the MTC in Brazil on Oct. 10 instead of Nov. 21.

This is so typical of my life. There's always some kind of twist, and I'm always being whisked away to something new. Why is my life like this? Is there something I need to learn? Don't get me wrong, it's always exciting! Just strange.

I had so many things I wanted to do with my family before I left, and now we are making lists and marking calenders to try and fit over 2 months of activities into 3 weeks.

Also, I only have a few Sundays left before I go. One is General Conference, another is a designated Fast Sunday because of General Conference, and the other is our Stake Conference. That left only this last Sunday for me to be able to speak. So, I got my farewell talk together in about one night. I'm grateful that I had family and friends make last minute trips to hear me speak. They are awesome! Oh, but I was a hot mess. So emotionally unstable. Haha. But I'm allowed to be.

I'm better now, after having a few days to adjust my mind set. Although after rereading this blog post, I can tell that my mind is chaos and it's all over the place. Oh well. Writing is my outlet. If you've made it this far through the post, I am impressed.

I was thinking about this past year, and I will be reporting to the MTC 11 months to the day after I had my knee surgery. I am amazed and so grateful at how Heavenly Father has gotten me through this last year. It should have been one of the hardest times of my life, but it turned out to be one of the happiest times of my life. It's amazing what a positive attitude and a little faith can do. I felt Him carrying me, and I don't think He ever set me down. Not once. Not to rest his arms, not to take a nap, and not to test if I was ready to stand on my own.

He is there. He always is.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Perfectly Uncomfortable

Yesterday, I attended my parents ward for church. In Sacrament meeting, they had the president of the Sacramento LDS Mission and his wife speak. I absolutely loved their talks. A few things they said struck me as amazing and enlightening. One of those things was that the mission president said that in life, we should always feel a little bit uncomfortable.

How true is that? We should always be striving to look for opportunities that will allow us to grow outside of our comfort zone and become a better person. And actually, we rarely have to look for those opportunities. They often come into our lives without explanation or warning. We can only grow as a person by experiencing uncomfortable times. Through trial and struggle—no matter the degree of the pain (emotional or physical)—we will grow and become closer to the person that Heavenly Father intends us to be.

Well, I know I haven't written on this blog in awhile. But I will try and update you as best I can. A lot has happened in the past 5 months since I've written, and it all has been a little bit uncomfortable. Towards the end of March, I finally committed and made the decision to serve the Lord as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It took me three months to complete my papers which was way longer than I expected or wanted to take. But it was good because during that time I was 100 percent cleared by my surgeon. I now have no restrictions with my knee. However, I am still really careful with it because I still have flashback episodes of dislocating the knee cap. Some of those flashbacks trigger mini freak out moments where I have to remind myself to breath normally. Basically, my mind needs to catch up with my body. (That might take years. And no, I will not be participating in any group sports at the MTC or in the mission field. Too scared, and I've heard too many stories.)

Anyways, the funny thing is that after I started working on my papers, I got a job. Yup. That seems to be how life works. I am now a job developer (and sometimes a vocational specialist) for a company that helps people with disabilities find and retain jobs. I hate job searching. It's one of my least favorite things in the world. Even then, I am amazed because it is so clear to me why I have been blessed with this job. I've pretty much always worked in more prominent places in the community, in the nation, and even the world. I may not have always had the most prominent job titles, but what I'm trying to say is that is the kind of environment I am used to and comfortable with. Well, this job has me working in places I do not particularly care for and with people who may need a lot of assistance socially and physically. So yes, it has been a little bit uncomfortable for me. I am learning how to work and teach people that need extra help. The way I like to look at it is that I am helping the people and spending time with the kind of people that Christ would be spending His time with if He were on the Earth today.

Perfect, right? Because on my mission, I know I will be interacting with people who may have a lot of needs. When you do that, you have to adjust your thinking, your approach, and your words. Again, a little bit uncomfortable. But this job is putting me in the right mindset as to how I can simplify my words and relay my knowledge to others. How much more helpful can that be?

I finally got my mission call on July 5, 2012. I have been called to serve in the Brazil Salvador Mission, Portuguese speaking. I report to the MTC in Sao Paulo on Nov. 21. I cannot wait. I kind of can't believe it, and I try not to think too much about it or I will get stressed out. I am just getting ready for it one step at a time. But the more I do think about this mission and the struggles it will bring, the more perfect it seems for me.

I was actually wanting to go state-side. Reason #1 for this: I wanted to get out in the mission field fast, and I figured if I didn't have to wait for a passport or visa, I could be out in a matter of a month or two, (so basically I was wanting this to work on my time table – haha). Reason #2: I knew I would be perfectly comfortable serving anywhere in the states. Well, news flash, nothing about a mission is supposed to be comfortable. So what does Heavenly Father decide to do? Make me perfectly uncomfortable. And I say perfectly because he is stretching me in every way possible. Not only is He sending me to a country and city that I have no known connection to, He is also taking away my language—the language that I so love. I am so excited to learn Brazilian Portuguese, but yes, you guessed it, it will be uncomfortable. All I can say is: that man in the heavens knows what he is doing.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Life to Give

Patience is something you are never done proving you have.

Well, life has been moving very slowly for me recently. And it is really hard at times. But I have many blessings in my life that I am grateful for. I have a wonderful family, fantastic friends, a good LDS ward to attend and a lovely calling (which means a responsibility to serve others at Church in a specified way).

I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and my knee gets stronger each day. I have a knowledge that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live and love me. Even though I am not where I would like to be in life, remembering my blessings keeps me going. They help me to feel of worth.

Despite my setbacks, I have been trying hard to make something with my life. Even though I don't know what's ahead for me, I try every day to keep going. But taking that step forward often takes courage. 

Through all this, I have been brought to a low I did not foresee. And the choice is mine to sink or swim.  Of course I want to swim, but the only way I can at this point is to rely on my God—to choose to be completely dependent on my Heavenly Father to guide me.

I've realized that I can't make anything with my life without my Heavenly Father. Everything I have accomplished already has been because of Him. And everything I desire to accomplish, will be done best through Him. My life is mine to live, but at times I feel that it is not my life to live, but my life to give. If I desire to make something out of this life, then I have to fully submit to the Lord and His will. I have to dedicate my life to following Him and serving Him. I have to prove my faith.

So, I continue to move forward.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Penny for My Thoughts

Penny is a family friend and fellow blogger who has posed some great questions in this post. My answers follow. Hopefully you get to know a little more about me. And hopefully my answers aren't too boring to read. :)

1. Which of the four seasons do you most anticipate and why?

Each season is beautiful and the start of each one awakens different senses that may have been dull for a while—especially fall. That is why fall is the season I most anticipate. Fall is the time when nature's beauty is full of vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red. The air is crisp and full of energy. I've always associated fall with good things. There's nothing like walking by a row of beautifully colored trees that capture your attention in a way that makes you forget about all your cares in the world. There's nothing like walking through a pile of crunchy leaves—the sound is somehow therapeutic. And there's nothing like being able to wear any outfit your little heart desires, because the weather is so understanding if you want to wear your summer clothes just a little longer, or if you want to start adding a scarf or hat here and there in anticipation of the upcoming months.

In fact, I was very grateful for this past fall in California because I hadn't had much of a fall the past several years. In Rexburg, fall lasts for maybe, oh I don't know, a day? One memory that my friend Gracie and I like to look back on and laugh about is the lack of the fall season one year at school. I remember walking home from work one night and all the leaves were still green and every single one seemed to still be on their tree branches. When I got up the next morning and left for class, I was in shock because EVERY SINGLE leaf had fallen during the night. It was the strangest thing.

2. If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose and why?

This is such a hard question! I'm trying to decide between Avonlea, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Law and Order and Gilmore Girls. That's a strange top four, I know.

Avonlea would be so wonderful. I think Prince Edward Island is heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and I know that I would enjoy dressing up in fashions of the early 1900s. It would just be nice to go back to a simpler time, and the characters are so loving and supportive of each other. Wherever I am in the world, I know that if I watch Avonlea, I will be comforted because it calms me and makes me feel like I am safe in my mother's arms.

Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman is another show that comforts me and can make me nostalgic. It's set in a post-Civil War era in a small, developing western town. In that setting, they always come upon so many adventures that would be exciting to write about and document. It would be an exciting time to be a journalist. Most of the characters make great efforts to help people in need or help people overcome prejudices. It would just be fascinating.

Law and Order would be a difficult one. I think it would be very educational, as I have always had an interest in legislation, law enforcement and the judicial process. The hard part would be seeing the misfortunes and crimes that people come across, but I have always had a love for detective work. I think I would totally rock the trench coat and fedora in the New York setting. I would also probably be in a pair of stilettos. I know that's completely impractical, but hey, it's a TV show, right? Or maybe I would have fun playing the D.A. Hmm ...

And last but not least, Gilmore Girls. My friend once compared the show to chicken noodle soup, and I completely agree. I would just have a blast in that charming, small town setting. I would be thrilled to eat at Luke's Diner, chat with Rory about literature and have witty conversations with everyone around me. It would just be an all-around good time.

3. Which activities make you lose track of time, and how often do you do them?

Writing. Definitely. Especially when I'm writing about something that interests me. I try to write as often as possible. I studied journalism in college, and I haven't stopped writing since that first journalism class. Growing up, I never even entertained the idea of becoming a writer, so it's interesting to see that I've ended up here. But that's a story for a different time. Anyways, it's easy for me to lose track of time when I'm writing because whenever I sit down to put words on paper, it's like I'm taking a completely new journey through my mind. And I never know where I'm going to end up. Writing helps me put my thoughts into cohesive sentences. When I write something, I try to be as true to myself and as open as I can, even though that makes me completely vulnerable. But it's exciting. I never know what I will learn about the world or about myself.

4. What's something you know you do differently than most people?

Maybe this isn't the kind of answer you were looking for when you asked this question, but one thing I think I do differently than most people has to do with how humans place judgment on other humans. I know I'm not the only one and can definitely still be better at this, but I think I try to be less judgmental about others than a lot of people are. Maybe it has to do with my journalism training, which encourages you to never assume something and always interview different sides to present the facts. But when someone catches my attention because they have made me mad or are simply unconventional, I try to make up a story about the possibility of why they do what they do. Like, if someone cuts me off in traffic, I try to tell myself that maybe there is an emergency and they have to get home. That's just one example. If someone is dressed in a way I would never dress myself, I think that maybe they lost a dare or all their other clothes burned in a fire. The stories may be extreme, but I find it really helpful in seeing others as equal. And the stories I make up can sometimes be very entertaining!

5. What do you consider to be the most halcyon season of your life?

I love this question. The season of my life that I consider to be the most halcyon (good word, I definitely had to look this up several times) of my life, had to be the summers I spent as a child in the 90s. The 90s were just awesome. I had a good childhood, my parents always strived their best to make mine and my sister's lives happy (and they still do a good job at that). For some reason, the summers when we lived in Cupertino always come to mind. I remember the beautiful sunshine made for the perfect weather to play outdoors. I have so many happy memories of riding my bike, rollerblading, jumping on my pogo stick, playing with my Skip it, learning new jump rope songs and running through the sprinklers. I also have fond memories of playing indoors with my barbies, polly pockets, Sky Dancer, doll house, Giga pets, and these colorful foam tubes with connectors (don't ask me what they were called). And I got to do all this with my fun friends and fabulous sisters! Though Elise and Rachel were definitely too young to play with this stuff, it was still fun to have them around in that time of my life. Oh my goodness, thinking about all this just makes me smile and wish I could relive even a day of those summers. They were just fantastic. I was a completely care free, happy child. *Sigh.

Penny, thank you so much for these questions! This post was so fun to write.



Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rethinking Where We Seek Validation

I'm just about a year out of college. A year out of the time in my life where success was measured by a letter grade on a paper. For seventeen years of my life, an 'A' was validation that I had worked hard. Landing internships further validated my hard work. Then, I landed a job. My validation was that I would finally become a fully-functioning, independent adult through means of a paycheck. To me, that was the ultimate validation. And I had it in my hands.

When my plans changed, I no longer felt that all my hard work was validated. But what did I mean by "validation?" Who did I think had the ability to grant this validation? By going through school, one is in a way taught that validation comes from professors, those with the power of the red pen. That led me to believe that my employers would in turn be the ones to validate me. But if there's one thing I've learned in these past few months, is that I must be the one to validate myself. I cannot let anyone else define success for me. I must do it for myself.

Perhaps that's the true meaning of becoming an independent adult. Not relying on the validation of others, but finding validation for yourself—allowing yourself the authority to decide if what you do is worthy or not. You can be independent monetarily, but being independent emotionally is freeing.

So, how do you get there? I don't think there's one universal path to get to that state of mind. But I do believe it starts with work. Any kind of pure, hard work. Then, begin to look for the good in what you do. Let that make you happy. Let that validate you.

I used to find great value in being so incredibly busy. But now I realize that I can still feel successful when I have less on my to-do list. I've learned that I can feel good about myself on the days where I complete even the simplest of tasks. There is success in washing the dishes again. There is success in doing another load of laundry. There is a sort of painful success in completing another set of physical therapy exercises. And despite my high dislike for job searching, there is even success in trying it again the next day.

As long as you put yourself to work on whatever is before you, you can find success. True validation doesn't come from grades or paychecks. Validation comes when you find the simplest reasons to value what you do. When you are comfortable being the one who validates your own work, that is when you can grant yourself truly independent.

Put in an honest day's work, regardless of whether your boss is the head of a multi-billion dollar company or the owner of a small business. Put in an honest day's work if you are the boss of others or if you find yourself only to be the boss of you. And when you find you are comfortable being the boss of you, it is at that point that you are truly free from needing the validation of others.



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Letting Go

Having moved from place to place every few months for the past year, I noticed that it was hard for me to get attached to any one place, any one church ward, any one group of co-workers, any one group of new acquaintances. I hate goodbyes, so maybe that was part of it. I guess I just didn't see the point in trying to grow some roots if I was just going to pick up and leave again. Well, that made for a kind of truly lonely life—being a self-proclaimed wanderer.

Then something changed. I learned that I was going to be in California longer than I had planned. (You think I would learn by now that making plans is sort of a waste of time.) I was hesitant, but I started to try and build a life here and get involved. I had my records moved into my new church ward, I accepted church callings, and I started making new friends, as well as hanging out with my old ones. I learned to enjoy the moments I was living in, rather than worry or anticipate what was coming next in my life. And it has made all the difference.

The harder you try and hang on to life, the more lost you get. Your eyes become closed to what is around you and the opportunities that present themselves to you. When you learn to let go, life becomes more clear. You find joy. You rediscover the love that you have for the world, and the love that the world has for you—the love that Heavenly Father has for you.

It is often said that in order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself. I have found this to be true. Lose yourself in the good. And slowly, life will present itself to you.