What Have I Been Up To? November Books, Movies and more — From the Perspective of an Old Soul

Seems like only a few weeks ago I wrote about October. . . Sigh time flies by. I won’t have as many movies on this list because I’m currently doing a marathon of classic movies. But I have been reading a lot of books lately and other series so that will be fun to talk […]

What Have I Been Up To? November Books, Movies and more — From the Perspective of an Old Soul

Sorry I’ve been writing on my other blog a lot more lately. Anyhow, have fun reading my newest post on what I’ve been watching and reading.

Month of Classic Movies: Day 2, Faust (1926) 9/10 — From the Perspective of an Old Soul

The demon Mephisto wagers with God that he can corrupt a mortal man’s soul. IMBD Synopsis Maybe I’m a little biased, but I really enjoyed this movie! I studied German Expressionist filmmaking for my senior thesis in college and never got to see this classic film directed by F.W. Murnau. If you are curious about […]

Month of Classic Movies: Day 2, Faust (1926) 9/10 — From the Perspective of an Old Soul

Thanks for reading my posts! Feel free to take a look at this article from my other blog!

Month of Classic Movies: Day 1, The 39 Steps 7/10 — From the Perspective of an Old Soul

Image via Doctormacro.com A man in London tries to help a counter-espionage Agent. But when the Agent is killed, and the man stands accused, he must go on the run to save himself and stop a spy ring which is trying to steal top secret information. Synopsis via IMBD Here’s how this scale works. I’ll […]

Month of Classic Movies: Day 1, The 39 Steps 7/10 — From the Perspective of an Old Soul

I usually don’t do movie review on this website, but feel free to check out my other blog for upcoming movie reviews on Classic Films.

Com Follow Me: Feb 17-23

“Not My Wll But Thine”, Walter Rane

I have thought a lot about the phrase “We rejoice in Christ” this week. I wondered what this really means, especially as we make mistakes and sometimes forget God for other life pursuits. Through studying, I found a particular scripture which really made me ponder. In 2 Nephi 15: 18-20 (Also Isaiah 5) it states,

18 Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of avanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope;

19 That say: Let him amake speed, bhasten his work, that we may csee it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it.

20 Wo unto them that acall bevil good, and good evil, that put cdarkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

The word which stuck out to me as I read these verses was “Wo(e)”. According to google dictionary, the definition of Wo(e) is “great sorrow or distress”. I’ve always wondered as a child until now how many times the Lord promises sorrow and destruction for wickedness. Part of it makes it seem as though he enjoys punishing those who do wrong. As for myself, it is hard to think a God who could send Christ to save us all could adversely enjoy the misery of his children.

Picture of Horseshoe Bay in Australia

I really like a story shared by Elder Von G. Keetch in the 2015 General Conference:

Some time ago while visiting Australia, I traveled to a beautiful horseshoe bay renowned for its surfing. As I walked along the beach, I was enthralled by the magnificence of the large crashing waves breaking just outside the bay and the smaller waves rolling in closer to shore.

As I continued my stroll, I encountered a group of American surfers. They were obviously upset about something, talking loudly and gesturing toward the sea. When I asked them what was wrong, they pointed to just outside the bay where the big waves were breaking.

“Look out there,” one of them angrily told me. “Can you see the barrier?” Looking more closely now, I could indeed see a barrier stretching across the entire mouth of the bay, right where the large, enticing waves were breaking. The barrier appeared to be made of a heavy mesh and was supported by floats on top of the water. According to the surfers, it dropped all the way down to the ocean floor.

The American surfer continued, “We are here on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to surf these big waves. We can surf the smaller ones breaking within the bay itself, but the barrier makes it impossible for us to surf the big ones. We have no idea why the barrier is there. All we know is that it has totally spoiled our trip.”

As the American surfers became more animated, my attention was drawn to another nearby surfer—an older man and obviously a local. He seemed to be growing impatient as he listened to the ever-increasing complaints about the barrier.

Finally he rose and walked over to the group. Without saying anything, he pulled a pair of binoculars from his backpack and handed them to one of the surfers, pointing out toward the barrier. Each of the surfers looked through the binoculars. When my turn came, with the help of magnification, I could see something that I had not been able to see before: dorsal fins—large sharks feeding near the reef on the other side of the barrier.

The group quickly became subdued. The old surfer retrieved his binoculars and turned to walk away. As he did, he said words I will never forget: “Don’t be too critical of the barrier,” he said. “It’s the only thing that’s keeping you from being devoured.”

-Blessed and Happy Are Those Who Keep the Commandments of God, 2015

So now these verses, which speak of the fate of those who don’t hearken to God’s voice, mean something else to me. It is a warning of the inevitable consequences of abandoning God’s commandments.  The commandments bring safety for the soul, peace of mind and more deeply connect us to God. But what happens when we abandon them? Can we pick and choose the consequences? The answer is no. Calling God’s commandments evil, unfair or confining rather then what they are does not change the fact God gave us commandments for our spiritual safety.

I also have thought a lot of two different examples of the state of those give in to temptation and live in their sins. One was the fate of those trapped in Dante’s nine circles of Hell. The second is the fall of the Nephite nation recorded in the Book of Mormon.

For those who don’t know, Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy is a narrative poem illustrating the afterlife and the fate of those who do or do not live a righteous life. Through the three parts InfernoPurgatorio, and Paradiso he painted a picture of the justice of God and the consequences of man’s choices.

“Cutting the Waves”, Gustave Dore

Honestly, most people remember only the first part of his work Inferno, which describes in bitter detail the fate of the wicked, doomed to one of nine circles of Hell. Though I do not agree with much of what Dante described, I do remember very distinctly a very particular scene. As he crossed with the infamous poet Virgil through limbo he heard the most horrid cries of pain. Those who had never taken sides, those who reveled in the seven vices, and those who had caused terrible harm to their fellow man.

For him to understand and receive his own salvation, Dante had to see and understand the fate of the wicked. Virgil tells him, “Through me you go into a city of weeping; through me you go into eternal pain; through me you go amongst the lost people

Though this quote really pained me when I read it many years ago, there was a particular stanza describing those caught in Hell’s vestibule which caught my attention. It reminded me of the fall of the Nephite nation.

“And I — my head oppressed by horror — said:

“Master, what is it that I hear? Who are

those people so defeated by their pain?”

      And he to me: “This miserable way

is taken by the sorry souls of those

who lived without disgrace and without praise.

      They now commingle with the coward angels,

the company of those who were not rebels

nor faithful to their God, but stood apart.

      The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened,

have cast them out, nor will deep Hell receive them —

even the wicked cannot glory in them.”

-Canto III, Inferno

Unlike Dante, I believe those trapped in these circles of Hell do have a way to escape. Such a state is only final if a person decides it is so. This is so because we have Christ, who” bdescended below all things, in that he ccomprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the dlight of truth” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6)

The true tragedy is this. Those trapped in Hell choose to stay. Their misery is born from living in their sins and never turning back to God. Wickedness never was happiness, because we can never truly be happy while destroying our bodies and souls through harmful decisions. Especially if those decisions lead others to suffer.

I think the lesson to learn from this is no matter where we are in life spiritually, there is always a way to come back to the light. However, we must choose it for ourselves.

I remember once while on my mission a sister asked one of the teachers during our zone conference how it could possibly be that anyone would willingly choose misery and never try to come back. He said there comes a point where a person can either lose all hope of ever changing or actually willingly want a wicked life. When that happens, there is nothing which will or can be done to make them change. This is because we have the freedom to choose our course for ourselves. It is as Lehi told his family before his death,

26 And the aMessiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may bredeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they arcredeemed from the fall they have become dfree forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the elaw at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

27 Wherefore, men are afree according to the bflesh; and call things are dgiven them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to echoose fliberty and eternal glife, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be hmiserable like unto himself.

-2 Nephi 2:26-27

This is why it was possible for a people blessed by God like the Nephites to fall. It was through small and simple choices made generation after generation. It is truly haunting to read Mormon’s observation concerning his people on the brink of their destruction.

11 Thus there began to be a amourning and a lamentation in all the land because of these things, and more especially among the people of Nephi.

12 And it came to pass that when I, Mormon, saw their lamentation and their amourning and their sorrow before the Lord, my heart did begin to rejoice within me, knowing the mercies and the long-suffering of the Lord, therefore supposing that he would be merciful unto them that they would bagain become a righteous people.

13 But behold this my joy was vain, for their asorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the bsorrowing of the cdamned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take dhappiness in sin.

14 And they did not come unto Jesus with broken ahearts and contrite spirits, but they did bcurse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives.

-Mormon 2:11-14

What I love about Mormon though are the words which he later sends his son Moroni. “25 My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto adeath; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and blong-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your cmind forever.” (Moroni 9:25)

We cannot control what others choose, but we can choose to hear Christ, learn of him and insodoing find peace with him. The greatest gift we can give to our self and others in this life is to choose to live a faithful, Christ centered life.

Thank you to those who read this!

Where do I go? Day 10

This post is mostly just me rambling. I find when my thoughts are this fragmented and heavy it is best to write them out.
Lately I have felt like Wirt from Over the Garden Wall. He stated in a rather dramatic way,

Sometimes I feel like a boat upon a winding river twisting towards an endless black sea, further and further, drifting away from where I want to be, who I want to be.”

All day today I have had multiple experiences of late flash through my mind. Honestly, I’ve reached a moment in my life where I don’t fit into any mold for anyone my age in the workforce or social sphere. And it causes a lot of deep pondering. At 29 I feel on the brink of passing into another world, one which not many people talk about, because not many reach it.
It is a world where I have a plethora of choices laid before me. Choices I have to now make because life didn’t go as I planned. At 18 I didn’t think about a career, because I figured most girls married by 21 anyway so I wouldn’t need to worry about it. Well. . . obviously that didn’t quite happen for me. Big events in my life all fell out of order. So obvious choices I could make fall to the wayside.
To give you an idea, my life played out like this. At 18 I left home to go to college as a music major, an obvious choice since I loved music and performing. Within a year and a half I switched my major to history and lost my love for music. My childhood passion gone, my mind pointed in a different direction and I moved colleges and finished my degree at 23.
Well, there I was with my education finished and absolutely no idea what to do. So I went home and because a music teacher of all things. But I felt lost, so unsure of my decisions and my future. Fear gripped me hard at times and pushed me further into myself. Then at 24 I left for a mission, serving with those 7 to 8 years younger then myself, returning at 26.
When I returned I didn’t have a college to go back to nor a marriage waiting for me. So I came to Provo to work, wait and hopefully settle down.

But over two years have passed me by and now the future lays ahead like tumbled weeds, jumbled, messy and looking altogether useless.
When I talk to others about my desires for marriage not being in sight I receive now typical answers which could explain the why or the will be. I’ve had some tell me, “Perhaps you are meant to marry someone who is still married to someone else. You just need to wait until life puts him into a single position again.” You know, the standard Sleepless in Seattle scenario. Another person told me, “Many women don’t marry in this life but still find ways to be mothers and companions for others.”
Goodness knows I have heard all sorts of things, partially because I think people feel just a little sorry for me. I don’t fit into the mold. I don’t have a prestigious career and don’t have my own family. I am adrift looking forward into a future which is truly unknown.
I think it is easy to lay back and wait for any number of futures people tell me to come true. People tick off names of people I could become like, who were successful or who married famous people way later in life. It is easy to think, “Now that I am older I should start preparing myself for different goals and dreams because my previous ones no longer apply.”
It is also easy to become lost, adrift wanting and waiting for life to finally come. Waiting for something miraculous to just happen.

Because that is what happens to people in these types of stories. I could be like Eowyn from Lord of the Rings who could only see in her future death by the sword, a means she devised as an escape from a caged life. I could also become like Charlotte from Pride and Prejudice who settled into a loveless relationship because she feared she was on the road to spinsterhood and shame. Then again, I could be like Fanny from Mansfield Park who felt such pressure to accept marriage from a man she did not altogether trust.
I could be Sheri Dew, Wendy Nelson, or any number of successful women in this world who found happiness elsewhere outside traditional molds and stories. I really could.
But here is the thing. I am not any of these people. When people tell me what I should now expect because of my age, sometimes I just want to look them in the eye and say, “How could you possibly know what is in my future or what will happen to me?” Other times I want to scream how those lives people envision coming for me are not what I want.
Here is the kicker though. Do I even know what I want? If my future and life truly doesn’t fit into a workbook I can easily memorize and fill out where do I go to find out? Now, my life is a blank canvas and I have all the freedom in the world to make it what I want. But what picture do I want to paint?

The easiest thing would be to copy someone else’s life. Make myself one of countless people.
But you know what, NO ONE FITS INTO THESE SO CALLED MOLDS. All of our lives are set centered on our agency. I have the power to choose the destination and particulars of my journey. But I do get sidetracked. I fail to envision the possibilities before me because I see others passing by me with particular styles, accomplishments and talents. And in so doing, I never really understand myself.
I don’t think we are able to grow beyond our visions of ourselves. Therefore, I must change my perspective. I need to learn to BE ME. If I don’t know what I want to do, perhaps it is about time I figured it out.

The greatest truth I can leave anyone who reads this is, don’t let anyone steer you from creating your own life and finding your own answers. Be yourself, trust God and look forward. For “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”

It’s in the Simple Things: Day 6

(Picture of me from above!)
Today I woke up to a small cold and a very simple phrase flashed through my mind: “Today is not going to be a good day.” Honestly, who wouldn’t think those words after a groggy night’s sleep? But, I have reflected on this reaction I had all day and I realized how easily programmed my mind is for negativity!
I wonder about how easily we all give in to these urges to be cynical. It makes me think, “Do we inadvertently become morosely set about our circumstances? Do we decide before the day or the events in our lives happen there is no happy ending? We desire happiness and security and yet. . . before we can appreciate beauty and see opportunities before us there always seems to be something off about our day.

(Confess! You have felt like this sad clown before)
When it rains, we complain about being wet, our now dirty cars and (in my case) riding bikes with fogged glasses and wet bangs. When it is sunny, we complain about how hot it is and. . . how long it has been since it has rained! Our hair frizzes, our hearts are broken intentionally or unintentionally, the light turns red right before we cross and our favorite series gives us cliffhanger after cliffhanger.

These patterns of negativity go on day after day. There are memes and funny t-shirts lamenting and even praising our decisions to be unhappy. But should it be so?
When I was on my mission in Russia, I went through an incredibly difficult transfer in my last winter. Let me tell you, the sun did not shine. . . for several weeks. It was gray, it hardly snowed, and it was cold. My heart was broken and I really and truly had to fight oncoming depression. I cried a lot, but mostly by myself. I put on a strong face in front of others but any happiness I had was forced.

There came a moment for me though when I knew I had to fight the foggy, lonely, bitter sadness swelling inside me. So I started writing happy notes to myself and sticking them on the mirror for me to see whenever I and my companion Carly came home. I talked about shots of blue I saw when the grey clouds seemed to part . . . just a little. I laughed about funny things like silly billboards, romantic pigeons and skillful, yet dangerous taxi drivers we daily encountered. And, though it was hard, I pulled myself out of my rutt with God’s help.
My problems did not disappear. I still left my area after six weeks, lamented a relationship with a young man who would never love me back and worried about my future. But let me say this. Because I looked for the good things happening in my life I FOUND THEM. I covered my mirror with daily blessings and happy moments and I began to believe they weren’t just part of my I imagination. I truly was a blessed and happy person. It just took awhile for me to see it.
I’ve had to remind myself multiple times in my life the truth Abraham Lincoln once said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

So…. as I left my apartment this morning I made a decision to, despite my mushy brain, long work schedule and clogging throat to find happy moments. So I did.

  1. I saw a praying mantis right as I got down the stairs!
  2. I finished putting up my glow in the dark stars all over my room. (Don’t be too jealous. 😉 )
  3. Though my salad had cucumbers in it, I really enjoyed it and felt good after eating it. (I picked most the cucumbers out when I realized they weren’t just funny tasting hard avocados.)
  4. I had no fussy customers today.
  5. My friend helped me buy a really nice dress which makes me feel like a spanish fashionista (Family it is floor length. Don’t be shocked)
  6. I talked to my Dad on the phone today. I missed him so it made my day.
  7. There were no long lines at the grocery store! Twice. . . (I forgot I need cash so had to go buy something else.)
  8. I realized I can bike up my crazy hill to work in only four minutes! Woot! I am strong even when my lungs are having burning spasms.

The list could go on but you get the idea. It takes me only a few moments of reflection to know how wonderful and beautiful my life is. I may not be married, or have children or be traveling the world as I would like. But really, who is to say I wouldn’t find SOMETHING to be negative about even then?
I really love this quote I found by Roy T. Bennett,

Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose Wisely.

I wish you all a fabulous day and glad add this post to my thirty days of self reflection. Life is too short to be mopey! There is a whole world out in front of us waiting to fill our lives with joy, if we are open to it.

The Bus Stop in Krasnadar


I feel my life is at a crossroads. The strange thing is, I don’t know which path to take because I don’t know what it is I want. It isn’t a question of what is right or wrong, but what my passions and intentions are. In my heart of hearts I am very aware it doesn’t matter which path I choose to travel down. The essential factor is me finally making a decision.

The trouble is. . . I currently don’t have a dream. Beyond my faith and my desire to make righteous decisions my goals center little on an aspiring career, travel or creative exploration. Plus, being single any thoughts on a future family have to be put aside so I can live fully in the now. I can’t control certain aspects of my life, no matter how strongly I want to. Falling in love is unfortunately a miracle I am patiently waiting for.

So, what do I do now? I have found in my experience at times like this, when I am unsure of what lies ahead of me, I look back on previous moments in my life which changed me. In this instance, it is on a bus stop in Krasnodar Russia. It is where I began to learn to SEE others and myself with eyes unclouded.

krasnadar 2

Thus we come to the title of this particular blog. It is not a review but a reflection and memory from my time as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints in Rostov, Russia.

As missionaries, leaders from the church assign us to particular areas of the world. I had no control over where they sent me. When I went to Russia, I remember such a flurry of emotions engulfing me, mostly centered on my anxiety and fear. Questions and doubts constantly swirled in my mind: Would I ever understand the language? Did my small actions matter? How could I overcome my intense timidity and shyness around people?

During my third month, I lived in Krasnodar in South Western Russia, somewhat close to the Black sea. On one particular day traveling with my companion on the local bus, I remember feeling particularly withdrawn and depressed at heart. It wasn’t a feeling of wanting to go home, but wanting to understand why I was there.

russia bus

On the back of the bus, I looked out the window and watched two men sitting at the bus stop across the street. At first glance everything seemed normal, but then I noticed the older of the two becoming increasingly agitated with his younger companion. Before long he started hitting the younger man, who I guessed was his son, and yelling at him. Carefully watching, I saw the younger man agonizingly place his hands over his ears and curl down on the bench against the onslaught.

This scene lasted, for me at least, only 30 seconds. But it stayed with me throughout my mission.  I had an intimate moment with God as I reflected on these two men. I had seen the older man’s anger, brutality and condescension. I had witnessed the younger man’s pain, fear and withdrawal. But beyond that, as I sat on the bus shaken by this scene, I felt as though a clear bell had rung in my heart. It was then I knew both of these men were children of God and both of them were hurting. This was a moment I could see the way our Father in Heaven sees.

I realized this was not a case of one victim but two. I wondered how much I did not know about their story, the trials they had faced together, the pains, fears, joys and sorrows which come in life. Did they drink? If so, how did they start drinking? What about money? The list of questions went on and on. The more questions that came, the more I felt my heart swell in love and compassion for those two men.  I never saw them again, but I still remember them.

And on that bus ride and in days to come I pondered the thousands upon thousands of souls we pass by every day. How easy it is for us to judge when we can not possibly understand the intricacy of another human soul.

How did this relate to how I was feeling? I realized the power of small simple acts of love and kindness and also of knowing that through Christ pains and fears are nullified and replaced with joy and peace. Can simply talking to a woman on a bus make a difference? Yes. It can make all the difference in the world. Sometimes it meant only complimenting her nails. Other times it led to sharing our message about Christ and His doctrine.

Thinking on this experience, I realize it taught me to be careful of my judgment of other people. I remind myself to truly look around me at those who are hurting and remember them with love.

Just as I had to see through God’s eyes to clearly know those two men in Russia, I know I need Him to see myself in the same manner. Even now I judge myself harshly for not being or looking a certain way, for not being married or having a specific type of job. In those moments I have to pause and remember. I know I need to be kind to myself and not ever underestimate who I am now and who I am becoming. Elder Dieter F. Uchdorf of the Quorum of the twelve said, “Being able to see ourselves clearly is essential to our spiritual well-being.”

I now look back on those fears and questions I carried, especially at the beginning of my mission, without a trace of anxiety. I did learn the language, overcome my shyness and embraced my time being with the people and sharing with them my love and knowledge of God and his plan for us. But it took time, patience and sitting often with God, as I pondered myself and others.

So who is to say I won’t feel the same years from now about these questions and concerns I have now? One constant I do know is I will change. And that is a good thing. It is as the singer Sam Cooke once sang.

There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

-A Change Gonna Come, Same Cooke

If we are to begin to understand our purpose here, we must start in our hearts to turn to God. As we draw closer to Him through thoughts and actions, His love heals us, strengthens us, and enlivens our souls. It is truly as Leo Tolstoy once said, “I live, really live, only when I feel Him and seek Him. “What more do you seek?” exclaimed a voice within me. “This is He. He is that without which one cannot live. To know God and to live is one and the same thing. God is life.” (A Confession, 1881)

DAY 7-Month of Movie Quotes: The Usual Suspects (1995)

Verbal: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that… he is gone.

I have never actually seen this movie but am well aware of its iconic ending and this quote which it embodies.

We must be so careful not to let ourselves forget there is great evil in this world. Moral ambiguity is a fancy way of saying there is no good and evil or right and wrong.

In 2 Nephi from the Book of Mormon Nephi states, “And behold others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell: and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none- and thus he whispered in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains from whence there is no deliverance.”

I like this quote because it makes it very clear how important it is not to let evil into our lives unwittingly. I think it is also a call to recognize that where there is evil there is also love and goodness.