Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Year and a Half to the Lord

Well last post for a year and a half while I'm off serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am so super stoked to serve the Lord and our brothers and sisters in the Philippines! I would love to hear from you, you can write or email me. Here are my addresses for the next 18 months:

MTC Address (July 3rd- Aug 14th):
Sister Shalee Jo Brown
2007 N 900 E Unit 15
Provo UT 84062

Field Address:
Sister Shalee Jo Brown
Philippines San Pablo Mission
Brgy San Juan, Alaminos
4001 Laguna

Email: shalee.brown@myldsmail.net

God be with you til we meet again! Peace out amigos!

This was me 6 months ago.
This will be me tomorrow.

And in 6 weeks this will be me!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Good Always Triumphs

Every fairytale is a fight between good and evil. And always, good triumphs. But it is never an easy path. Prince Phillip had to overcome obstacle after obstacle before he could slay the dragon and save Sleeping Beauty. Snow White went through trial after trial before her Prince Charming saved her and she finally escaped the evil queen. And Cinderella's path to happily ever after definitely wasn't a piece of cake thanks to her evil stepsisters and stepmother. But in the end, it was always good that won.
True to all fairytales, there is a villain in mine. His name is Satan and he is doing everything he possibly can to stop me from reaching the next step in my happily ever after: A mission. The moment you decide to serve a mission, he steps it up a notch. When you get your call, he tries a little harder. And when it gets close to you actually going, he comes at you full force. At first it was simply by putting doubts and fear into my mind. "I don't know if I really want to do this. I'll be so behind in school and I'll miss too many things at home." And then it got worse. "What if I chose wrong and this isn't what I'm supposed to do? I definitely can't learn Tagalog, I couldn't even learn Spanish! I don't know anything, I'm not ready for something like this. What if I don't even make it through the MTC?" And the big one, "Why the Philippines? I'm not supposed to go there. What if my prosthesis has problems over there? And I wanted to learn Spanish like everyone else is. This is all wrong." DO NOT DOUBT YOUR MISSION CALL. That is the worst thing you could do because then you doubt everything. You are called where you are needed. It is inspired by God, I know that surely now. After talking to a San Pablo RM and the mission president the doubts went away and I was nothing but excited! Haha Satan! It's over, I won! Or so I thought.

When my villain couldn't get into my thoughts anymore, his attempts became more visible. Just smaller things at first, my sister's glasses broke, the lawn mower died, we found out I needed an extra vaccination, there was a pretty minor car accident, and I started having problems with a cyst on my leg that hadn't made a comeback for 3 years. But then there was this. My single mother who is raising 3 expensive teenagers lost her job. And I was angry. How could Heavenly Father let this happen? I'm trying to do His will! "Why?" I wanted to scream at Satan, "Why are you attacking my family?! It's me you want, not them! Just leave them out of this! Don't you realize what this will do to my family?" He knew. He knew that in order to get to me he had to use the people I loved the most.

That night I had a dream. Every time I went downstairs to my room there was this darkness that would overcome me and I would feel so afraid and alone and run back upstairs to the light and my family. One of those times, it didn't let go and it was threatening to overcome me completely and I was just about to give up when I realized that I had a choice here. I was stronger than Satan because I had a sidekick. My Savior, Jesus Christ, was on my side. I was not going to let Satan win. Good always wins. And the darkness receded, not completely but enough that I could carry the burden. I realized that Satan isn't going to give up, he's still going to be there. But with the help of my family and most importantly, my Savior, the temptation will be less and my strength will be enough. I want nothing more than to fight this battle alone. I wish that he would leave my family out of it. But villains never fight fair. They always use the people you love the most against you.

D&C 84:88 
But you know what, there is always someone with a kind heart willing to help. Cinderella had her Fairy Godmother, Snow White had the 7 dwarves, and Ariel had Flounder and Sebastian. I have angels. Not all of my angels have wings. In fact, most of my angels are just regular people. From the time I was trying to decide if I should serve a mission until now angels have been helping me. Before I had even decided I was going, I knew money would be an issue. But a couple of angels made it possible not only to go, but to go a lot sooner than I could have otherwise. When I had doubts, the angels I called roommates eased my fears. Then when my ward found out that my mom had lost her job and that I still needed so much for my mission, they immediately and silently stepped in. I have had angel after angel show up on my doorstep with a check. People who hardly had anything themselves were sending envelopes full of cash. One pregnant sister even showed up with a bag of feminine products because she'd heard I was going to need 18 months worth in the Philippines and she wasn't currently in need of them. I was amazed and touched by the outpouring of love and service these people, my angels, so freely gave. And that's when I realized you can't put out a light with darkness. Darkness doesn't even exist. Darkness is simply the absence of light. But light, light banishes darkness instantly. It doesn't even stand a chance. So take that Satan. You will NEVER win. Because good ALWAYS triumphs. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Words of Wisdom from T-Swift

This past weekend I had the chance to witness Taylor Swift's Red Tour, up close and personal. Okay, not really that close. We were on the 3rd row from the very, very top. But it was still AMAZING! I was definitely more excited about it than the 12 year old girls behind us. I never, ever, ever wanted to leave. Like ever.

Say what you will about the woman, but she really is a great role model. So she hasn't been so lucky in love and maybe she does have one too many break up songs. But that's life. It happens to a lot of people. Their personal lives just aren't printed on the cover of a magazine. It can't be easy trying to find the man of your dreams while touring around the country and having every detail of your personal life, true or not true, plastered on the front page for everyone to see. At least she hasn't shaved her head yet.  And hey,  I, like most people, write my feelings in a journal that no one reads. She writes them in songs. And she makes millions. Props to her.

She gave a little bit of an intro and background to each of her songs and I loved the things she said. She is just so down to earth and honest. She's real. I think that's why so many girls relate to her. Before she sang "Mean," she talked about how she hadn't always had 14,000 people to hang out with on a Saturday night. She wasn't super popular in school and people were mean. And she thought that when she got older, the bullies would go away. But they didn't. And then she said something that I think resonates with a majority of her audience. "No matter what you do, there are always going to be people trying to tear you down. But you can't let them win."

She's right. There will always be someone trying to knock you down. There will always be someone trying to tell you that you aren't good enough, that you can't do it. Sometimes that person is you. For me, the current struggle is my mission. Sometimes people say things to me that make me doubt my decision and my ability. But here's the thing, I am good enough. And I can do it. And so are you. Be confident in who you are and in your dreams, whatever they may be. Don't let anyone knock you down. Don't be afraid to go out and prove people wrong. Show them just how bright you can shine :)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Walking away on the Final Foot

This past week I walked away from Shriners Hospital on my final foot. Literally. For the past 19 years I have been making trips down to Shriners Hospital, initially for my amputation, sometimes to get my prosthesis lengthened because I was growing, more than once to get a new foot because I broke the current one completely off, sometimes for surgeries, and sometimes just to make sure everything was working well. These trips were usually made with my mom or my grandma and never passed by without a stop at the Old Spaghetti Factory! I've had 5 different prosthetists over the years and 18 different legs. I've broken foot after foot after foot. Once I even broke my entire leg in half during gymnastics! And Shriners has always been there to help.

I honestly don't know what I would have done without Shriners' Hospital. Most people have no idea what Shriners is and that's really a shame because it is an AMAZING organization. Shriners' Hospital for Children specializes in the treatment of children ages 0-18 years old with burn injuries, neuromusculoskeletal conditions, and other special healthcare needs. There are 20 different locations throughout the United States and they serve patients from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Panama. Now ready for the most amazing thing about Shriners' Hospital? It is a non-profit organization. They do everything for free! Everything. If you remember from my earlier post, I have 18 prosthetic legs. Since I am a below-the-knee amputee my prostheses are a lot cheaper than the ones that require the knee component. Each one of my 18 legs costs between $5,000 and $15,000. Yep. I could trade one in for a car. Or three. So that makes the total cost of my legs at least $90,000 plus the cost of my surgeries. There is NO way that my family could have covered those costs. Shriners is seriously a blessing in my life and the lives of so many others who are in the same situation.

Because it is a non-profit organization a huge part of their funding comes from donations. If you would like to learn more about or donate to this amazing organization, just click here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I Went Inside Today

One of my favorite primary songs is I Love To See The Temple. The song starts out with the words "I love to see the temple. I'm going there someday." Ever since I was little I have loved looking for the castle on the hill (AKA the temple). And always I've wanted to go inside. Well today I was no longer going there someday. I was going there TODAY!

I was a little nervous, but I felt like I was pretty prepared. I had taken both a mission prep and a temple prep class and I had read a few different books about preparing for the temple. I was ready.

It was so beautiful inside and out, just like a castle should be! I felt just like a princess and I knew I was just that. It was a wonderful experience to hear the teachings of the temple and be surrounded with family and friends. There was a moment when I felt a little overwhelmed but then I was reminded that I didn't have to understand it all. I didn't have to remember everything. I just needed to focus on the spirit and feeling the peace of the temple. So that's what I did and it was great.

I love the temple and I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to go inside today. I know that the things taught in the temple are true and that it truly is the House of the Lord. I love the peace I feel there and I can't wait to go back again. I am also grateful for the people that were able to be there with me and for the examples that they are to me. I am so excited to serve the people of the Philippines and to teach them about this glorious gospel so that they too may have the wonderful blessings of the temple. 46 more days!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Never Have I Ever Had 10 Toes

Have you ever played that game "Never have I ever..." where you say something you've never done and anyone who has done it is out? Well, I'm the champ of that game. Never have I ever been on an airplane. Never have I ever been to Disney Land. Never have I ever had 10 toes. Wait, what? That's right. I've never had 10 toes.

I was born with a condition known as fibular hemimelia, which is characterized by a completely or partially missing fibula. Because the fibula is missing, the tibia is often bowed, resulting in a length discrepancy between legs. Usually the discrepancy is anywhere from 15% to 30% difference in leg length. My parents were told that when I was done growing my right leg would be about 6 inches shorter than my left. The missing bone also results in an unstable ankle joint and a partially formed foot. Thus, the reason I have never had 10 toes, I was born with only 3 on my right foot. 

Well how did I get it? Did my mom eat something she wasn't supposed to? Did she do something crazy while she was pregnant with me? No, my mom did nothing wrong. There is currently no known cause for the condition. It randomly occurs within the first two months of fetal development and for whatever reason, the leg doesn't form correctly. 

There are two treatment options, 1) leg lengthening and reconstructive surgeries or 2) amputation and a prosthesis. The first consists of multiple major surgeries over the course of 15 years to lengthen the leg bone and muscle and reconstruct the foot and ankle. This option may have allowed my leg to be salvaged and I may have gained full use of the leg by the time I reached adulthood, but I would have had to endure huge amounts of pain and would most likely have missed a lot of schooling due to the care I would have required. The second option was to amputate the foot at about 12 months of age, issue a prosthesis about 2 months prior to the surgery, and learn to walk on the prosthesis. I would have complete mobility and function of that leg comparable to the other one and life would go on as normal, except for the occasional stares and curious questions of others.

My parents chose the latter (a decision I am SO grateful for) and I underwent a Symes amputation (meaning through the ankle joint) when I was 14 months old. A pie shaped piece of bone was also taken out of my bowed tibia to straighten it out. A few months later I was in my new stylish hot pink prosthesis and learning to walk, just like any other toddler.

Over the years, I have gone through 18 legs, all provided free of charge by Shriners' Hospital, a wonderful organization which I will talk about in a later post. Each one is unique and has gone through it's own challenges with me. And each one has made me stronger. People have asked me, "Do you ever wish you had 2 real legs?" and my answer without hesitation is always no. If I had 2 real legs, I probably wouldn't have accomplished half of the things that I have. If I had 2 real legs, I wouldn't have met some of the most amazing people I have ever met. If I had 2 real legs, I wouldn't have had many of the awesome opportunities that I've had. And quite frankly, if I had 2 real legs I wouldn't be me. Being an amputee has had such a huge part in making me who I am and I wouldn't have it any other way.

So if you ever wondered what happened to my leg but were afraid you'd offend me if you asked, there ya go. And for future reference, if you have questions just ask! I'm not offended by them at all. In fact, I'd rather you ask questions than just have to wonder for the rest of your life. So if you have questions, feel free to comment below :)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

You're Gonna Miss This

I have officially finished my freshman year at the University of Utah! I can't believe how quickly it has flown by! When I moved to Salt Lake City and started college last August I never could have even imagined the experiences I was going to have and the people I was going to meet. To be honest, college and I didn't start out on the best foot. I didn't really know too many people, my roommates were almost never home, my classes were hard, and I was still getting used to living on my own. But it got better and looking back now I wouldn't change a thing. I was blessed with so many wonderful people and opportunities! One of the biggest blessings in my eyes was that I was able to move in with Amanda, Avery, and Lya because not only did those three become my best friends, I also got three more less expected ones, three sweet boys that offered to help me move and eventually ended up singing songs in our shower, and with them came so many adventures!

Fall 2012
I'm gonna miss a lot of things about college. I'm gonna miss secretly laughing at the people running to catch the shuttle and then having to suck up my pride and do the same. I'm gonna miss getting donuts and chocolate milk every week in my LEAP class. I'm gonna miss falling asleep in the heavenly womb chairs in the library. I'm gonna miss hearing Brother Case's awesome stories in Mission Prep and always being able to count on free food at the Institute. I'm gonna miss the city lights and beautiful sunsets. I'm gonna miss habitually checking my mail everyday and getting super excited when it miraculously wasn't empty. I'm even going to miss trips to the HC, not because the food was good, or even edible, but because I have so many memories there.
Winter 2013
But what I'm going to miss the most is the people. I'm gonna miss Freshman Council meetings every Tuesday and family dinners afterwards. I'm gonna miss Neena and Oliver's entertaining arguments. I'm gonna miss hearing about Ashlynn's polygamist schemes and every other hilarious thing that came out of that girl's mouth. I'm gonna miss trying not to laugh listening to Chase and Ashlynn argue like a married couple. I'm gonna miss going to the temple every week with my roommates, late night talks outside Amanda's door, and sleepovers in the living room. I'm gonna miss Avery's cute little notes and gifts and her attempts to get Amanda and I to the gym despite our endless list of excuses not to. I'm gonna miss being able to count on Pitch Perfect quotes and a Taylor Swift jam session to 22 every day. I'm gonna miss never going to bed without a hug and a reminder that I was loved. I'm gonna miss Sunday morning brunch before church. I'm gonna miss our "study" parties in the living room. I'm gonna miss going on adventures with Jeremy, Sione, and London and knowing they would watch out for us all the way. I'm gonna miss hearing them say that they were "just watching out for their favorite suite". I'm gonna miss having them randomly show up at our door. I'm gonna miss hearing London rock the guitar. I'm gonna miss that angel voice of Sione's. I'm gonna miss Jeremy's awesome improv raps and Sione's beat-boxing. I'm gonna miss seeing "The Shower Song" performed live in our actual shower. I'm gonna miss getting after the boys for clanning too much. I'm gonna miss having Sione make up songs just for us and falling asleep on the couch to the sound of his ukulele. I'm even gonna miss their silly little pranks.

The Best Friends (minus Amanda)
I'm gonna miss a lot of things but most of all I'm gonna miss them; Amanda, Avery, Lya, Sione, Jeremy, and London. Saying goodbye to them all this weekend was rough. I'd be lying if I said I didn't shed a few tears. Or a lot of them. Goodbyes aren't as hard when you know you're going to see that person again though, and I know I'll see them all again. It's the big one in two months I'm worried about. But even then, there 's this:
"Don't be dismayed at goodbyes, a farewell is necessary before you can meet again and meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends."
I am so grateful for the opportunity I've had to attend the University of Utah and to have met the people I have. They can't possibly know how much they mean to me because I'm not really very good at telling them. They have all made me a better, stronger, happier person. It's impossible not to be better, not to feel like you can do anything, not to be happy when those 6 are around you. I love them oh so much and I am incredibly blessed to have met them.

Spring 2013
I'm gonna miss college. I really am. But don't worry University of Utah! I'll be back! Just give me 18 months :)