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 :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Final Freshman Adventures

The final two weeks of my Freshman year at the University of Utah were filled with adventures with fabulous people. Here's just an idea of what they were like.

Color Festival
We weren't able to go to the big one in Spanish Fork so we went to the one in SLC! It was a lot smaller scale but it was still a blast!
                             Before                                                        After 

Suicide Rock
After Color Fest, a couple of our favorite boys took us to Suicide Rock. It's just this big rock with a bunch of really cool graffiti on it. Of course we left our mark :)

FC Banquet
Freshman Council was definitely the best decision I made this year! I met so many amazing people I wouldn't have met and had lots of awesome experiences I wouldn't have had otherwise. It's so strange to realize we won't be having meetings every Tuesday anymore and we won't be having little family dinners and I might never see some of these people, who have become such a big part of my life, again. I'm definitely going to miss this but I know the people in this group are going to accomplish some amazing things!
This is one amazing group of people
Sunset Hike
London and Jeremy took Avery and I on a hike that was supposed to be to The Living Room on Saturday. But we got lost. All I really wanted was to see the sunset without the city in the way though, so I was happy :)

The Pie
It's Legendary. All U of U students have to go there at some point, so we chose to make it part of our week of adventures!
                       Roommates                                  All my favorite people!

Hike to The Living Room
The boys couldn't let their pride be shattered so they went back and actually found The Living Room and then took us with them Tuesday night. It was an adventure, that's for sure. They took us on the most difficult trail, we listened to some epic music, quoted Pitch Perfect, watched the sunset, had a few near-death experiences, went down the "slip n' slide" on our bums so we didn't fall down the mountain, and finally made it home safe and sound.

Temple Road Trip
On Wednesday, Amanda, Avery, and I decided to go to all of the temples North of Salt Lake in one day. We went to the Bountiful, Brigham City, and Logan temples. It was really awesome and I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to go to the temple!

Build a Fort
Wednesday night we did exactly what college students are supposed to do... We built a fort! Avery and I had never made a fort before but thanks to Amanda's expertise we built the coolest fort you've probably ever seen! Then we watched The Office and had a sleepover in our little fort :)

Hike to the U
Thursday we hiked to the U!

Natural History Museum
After our hike, we went over to the Natural History Museum. I'm not much of a history person but the dinosaurs were pretty darn cool! However, my favorite part was probably laying in the sun on the roof.

Monday, April 29, 2013

10 Things I've Learned Working in a Preschool

I've had the wonderful opportunity to work at one of the preschools on campus this year. I loved it and even though I was the teacher, I learned a whole lot from my two and three year olds. This was my last week at the preschool so in honor of that, I thought I'd share with you a few of the things I learned during my time there.

1. You can buy kids at the store. 
    - One little boy drew me a picture and told me to give it to my kids. I replied I didn't have any kids. He thought for a minute and then said "Well... you can get some at the movies. Or you could get some at the store." So keep that in mind.
2. Don't cry over spilled milk.
    - Literally. You'd be crying all through lunch every single day. I can't even tell you how many pints of spilled milk I've cleaned up.
3. Differences don't matter.
    - I had kids in my class from China, the Middle East, India, Russia, and the states. They all spoke               different languages but that didn't matter to them. They still talked to each other and acted just like the best of friends. We got a couple of new students, twins straight from China, and the other kids hardly even noticed. They grabbed the girls' hands and brought them over to play with them. Kids are awesome.
4. Forgive quickly
    - It's amazing how easily and how quickly a child forgives and forgets. It really made me realize how much time I personally have wasted holding grudges and waiting for people to do the right thing before I was willing to forgive them when I could have just been enjoying life.
5. Kids give the most sincere compliments.
    - Working with kids is a major boost to your self-confidence. A day never passed without a compliment from one of the kids and you knew they really meant it because kids are honest. They just say what they think and most of the time, that's a good thing.
6. You can choose to cry or choose to laugh.
    - You know when a little kid falls down and there's that moment of deliberation and you can see it in their eyes that they're deciding if they should cry or laugh it off? I realized we all have that choice in any situation. We can cry or we can laugh and sometimes it's okay to cry. Sometimes that's the right choice. But sometimes we just have to smile and laugh it off because we're stronger than that.
7. Nap time is a war zone.
    - It's a war to get twelve 2 year olds to sit down. And hold still. And be quiet. And maybe fall asleep. It's a war for the teachers not to fall asleep. I mean, do we really have to turn the lights out and play relaxing music?
8. It's impossible to get mad at an adorable smile.
    -But really, when they make some sassy little comment and then look up at you with their adorable little smiles, what are you supposed to do? Oh you committed murder? (smiles an adorable smile) Okay just promise me you won't do it again. Heaven help me if my kids have adorable smiles!
9. Be kind.
   - When a child was sad the kids wouldn't hesitate to give hugs and words of comfort to the one in need. There was one little girl who would cry and cry all day long and the kids would put their hands on her arm and say "It's okay, mama will be back." Remember that most of these kids didn't even speak the same language. Seeing my 2 and 3 year olds do this made me want to strive to be kinder and to not hesitate when I saw someone in need of kind words.
10. Celebrate EVERYTHING!
    - We're going outside. (Jumping up and down screaming yay, yay, yay, yay!) Time to go inside. (Jumping and screaming ensue) Turn off the lights. (Jumping and screaming again) Turn on the lights. (Same thing) Lunch time! (You can probably guess what happened) It didn't matter what we were doing, (as long as it wasn't nap time), the kids got so excited! Even over the most trivial things. There is so much in life to celebrate, so celebrate!

I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to work at ECEC and I'm definitely gonna miss those cute kids!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Called to Serve

Dear Sister Brown,
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Philippines San Pablo Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months. You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Tagalog language. Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president.

Let me tell you how it happened. I put the letter behind the rest of the papers so I couldn't see where I was going to go. But then the paper on top was an application for a U.S. passport. What? I was sure I was going stateside! Then I started reading. After the first line I pulled it up just a little too far and saw San Pablo. It must be Spanish-speaking. Then I saw July 3rd. I changed my availability date from August 1st to July 1st because everyone was getting calls that were a month or 2 after their availability dates. I didn't actually think I'd leave that soon! Then my eyes, which clearly weren't reading this thing in order, went back to the Philippines. Whoa, really? The Philippines? Then I saw tagalog. Um, what? That's definitely not Spanish. This was all happening in a matter of seconds and somehow I managed to actually read it out loud and in order while my eyes and my mind were darting all over the page. There were audible manifestations of surprise and of course, cheers. But then there was this moment where I just stood there. Did that really just happen? Is this real life? The Philippines? Tagalog? And everyone else just sat there too. They were probably thinking the same thing. Finally my mom came and gave me a hug and life continued. We had brownies and ice cream and everyone started googling San Pablo.

Here are the first things I was told prior to opening my call:
"You're going to have to eat a balut (boiled fertilized duck embryo)."
"Mr. Dick went there. He got shot."
"You're probably going to get a parasite."
"The flight there is terrible!"

Comforting, right? And then there were the thoughts that went through my mind throughout the night:

"I don't even know where the Philippines are."
"How do you even say Tagalog?" 
"I've never even been on an airplane! I can't fly half way around the world!"
"Heavenly Father, are you sure you didn't mean to send me somewhere in the states?"
"I'm a little terrified."
"July 3rd is in 2 months. 2 MONTHS!! How am I possibly going to get everything done?"
"I hope there are monkeys there."
"What was I thinking?"
"Do I really have to eat a baby duck?"
"It's going to be alright."

These thoughts continued for a couple of days but always I was comforted by the more important thoughts that were always there: "Heavenly Father called you to the Philippines for a reason. He needs you there and He is going to help you. This is right." I am so excited for the adventure that awaits me! I might be a little nervous, I may never have flown on an airplane, and I may know nothing about Tagalog, but I find comfort in the fact that this is a part of a plan that is much bigger than me and in the fact that my Savior is going to be by my side every step of the way. I am so thankful for the opportunity I have to serve our brothers and sisters in the Philippines and to teach them about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can't wait to get out there and serve the Lord and the wonderful people of the Philippines!

Mahal Kita <3



Brownies and Ice Cream :)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Even Pocatello, Idaho

My mission call has been assigned. There is an actual place that I will be going for the next 18 months. This is real life. I am so excited and nervous to see where the Lord would have me serve! I've never been out of the country, so a foreign mission would be way cool! I'm not sure of the church's protocol concerning amputees so it's possible that I will be called to serve in the states for medical reasons, but I've never been to a state that wasn't bordering Utah, so that would probably feel foreign to me too. Everyone always jokes about getting called to Pocatello, Idaho. What if I get called there? That would be sad. I would love to learn Spanish. I've always wanted to go to Italy. One of the new missions would be cool. There are just so many possibilities! These are the thoughts that are going through my mind right now.

But I've been doing a lot of thinking lately and I've come to a conclusion: It doesn't matter. I am not serving a mission for me. I am serving a mission because I want to serve my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I am serving a mission because I have been blessed with something that makes me so extremely happy and I want everyone else to know what I know so they can be happy too. I am serving a mission because the Lord wants me to. I am serving a mission because God loves each of His children and He wants them to know that. He wants ALL of them to return to Him. All of them. It has been stated that "This gospel shall be preached unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." (D&C 133:36) We are all included in that, every single one of us. I'm from Utah, Mormon central, and how many people do I know that have yet to hear this glorious gospel? The answer is a lot, including members of my family and some of my closest friends. 

So you see, it doesn't matter. No matter where I go, there will be people that our Heavenly Father loves more than you or I can even imagine. Even in Pocatello, Idaho. No matter where I go, there will be people who need the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even if it's Pocatello, Idaho. No matter where I go there will be people who are searching and "are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it." (D&C 123:12) The Lord has a work for me to do. It may be in Spain, or Italy, or Australia, or it may be in California or Wisconsin but no matter where I am called, I will be happy. Even if it's Pocatello, Idaho :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Coincidence? I think not.

Meet Avery and Amanda, two of my roommates. They're also my best friends. I went to Family Home Evening once. (I'd like to say that I do that regularly, but unfortunately that just isn't the case). It was the 2nd week of college and I volunteered to drive a few people to the park. Two girls got into my car and I didn't think much of it. We talked a little bit but to be honest, I'm not sure I even remembered their names when the night was through. But fate would have it that Amanda and I would both be on Freshman Council. Fate would also have it that they were going to have an empty room in their suite 2nd semester. Of course I jumped at the chance and now I get to see their lovely faces every single day!

Avery is our small town girl. She just has such a fun personality! Plus she loves country music, which is a hard quality to find these days. There is seriously never a dull moment with this girl. Especially if she stays up past 10pm. That's when it gets really funny :) She is one of the most caring people I know. She is always worrying about a friend, taking someone to dinner, sending a package to a missionary, or doing some random act of kindness. Many a time I've come home to a cute little note or a treat on my desk. Once she even brought me and Amanda a treat and said it was for St. Patrick's Day. Who gives St. Patrick's Day gifts? Leprechauns and Avery, the most thoughtful person on the planet, that's who. She gives the best hugs. If you ever want to have a really good talk, talk to Avery. She's a great listener and a deep thinker. She's strong too. She's had trials in her life that I can't imagine but she always manages to be happy and positive. She is always sharing her light with others and looking for opportunities to share the gospel. She's just plain amazing!

Amanda is from Provo but no worries, she's a true Utes fan. Me and her have a pretty strict pact where we wear sweats all the time and and use Pitch Perfect references to get out of going to the gym when Avery invites us. I'm not implying that we're lazy, we just don't like vertical running ;) She is, in fact, a very hard worker. She works, volunteers, is involved on campus, and gets awesome grades. She is going to make one amazing PA someday! She is kind and is always seeking to do what is right. She is a great example to me and everyone around her. She is always there to give great advice and to unknowingly strengthen my faith when I need it. Her testimony is a shining example of the fabulous young woman she is. She just got her mission call just a couple of weeks ago to the El Salvador Santa Ana/Belize mission. I am so excited for her! She is going to be such an amazing missionary!
Enjoying the view after Priesthood Session ;)
Runnin' Utes Basketball Game
Our "Babe" tattoos at Rock the U
Basically I don't know what I would do without these two. I can tell you that my first year of college definitely wouldn't have been the same. I'm a better me because I met them. Do you think it was a coincidence that the 3 of us showed up at Family Home Evening (once...) and these two got in my car? I don't think so. I had begged Heavenly Father that shy little me would be able to make some new friends and that I wouldn't end up going through Freshman year alone. They were literally an answer to my prayers. I will be forever grateful that of all the people on this great big campus, my Heavenly Father sent me these two. I can't even begin to express to you how grateful I am for them or how much I've grown to love these two girls over the past 9 months. So coincidence? I think not.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Thoughts on General Conference

I love General Conference! What a wonderful thing to be inspired and uplifted all while wearing my pajamas! Really though, conference just keeps getting better and better. I've had an ever present smile on my face since the first session began!

I had the awesome opportunity to attend the Sunday morning session of conference with my best friends and it was amazing! I can't even properly convey to you the things that I felt. Watching thousands of people fill the conference center filled me with joy and wonder. They knew what I knew. They had the truth of the gospel. There was a visible light and an air of happiness all around downtown and you just couldn't help but feel the happiness that comes only from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Every word that was spoken in this glorious conference was inspired and was no doubt the answer to a heartfelt prayer. Many of the words spoken were answers to my own prayers. There were so many great talks that I couldn't possibly pick one. So here are a few of my favorite quotes from all of the talks.

"The perfect place to begin is exactly where you are right now." - Dieter F. Uchtdorf 
"In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited." - Jeffrey R. Holland 
"Stay on the Lord's side and you will win EVERY TIME." - Richard G. Scott
"Imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to him but he deals with it. So should we." - Jeffrey R. Holland
"Recognize the good in others and not their stains." - Richard G. Scott
"She understood who she was, and whose she was." - Elaine S. Dalton 
"We need to bear in mind that people can change... We must learn to see them as the Lord sees them." - Richard G. Scott
"The Lord wants to forgive." - Craig A. Cardon 
"Friendship is like the asphalt of life. It fills the potholes and makes the journey smoother." - Richard G. Scott  
"You can depend on the Lord to draw closer to them as you serve Him in faith." - Henry B. Eyring 
"Trust in the Lord and His timing." - Richard G. Scott 
"Heavenly Father has shown us not just a way, but the way." - Stanley G. Ellis 
"Catch the wave of missionary work." - Russell M. Nelson
"Disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other." - Rosemary M. Wixom
"With Christ, darkness cannot succeed." - Dieter F. Uchtdorf  
If you didn't get the chance to watch all 4 sessions of conference I encourage you to watch it! Chances are you will find the answers to your own questions in the words that are spoken, the hymns that are sung, or simply in the whisperings of the spirit. You can watch or listen to the full conference here.

I know that my Redeemer lives and that He loves me. I know that President Monson truly is a prophet of God. I know with all of my heart that I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me more than I could ever comprehend. I am so grateful for the opportunity we have to hear the words of the prophet every 6 months and I'll be counting down the days until I get to hear them again!

Friday, April 5, 2013

6 Tips For Listening to General Conference

The 183rd Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is this weekend and I am so excited! Six months is too long! I can honestly say I've been looking forward to it for the entire six months. That hasn't always been the case though. Sitting down and dedicating 8 hours, 10 if you're a guy, of your weekend to listening to some elderly gentleman speak, no matter how wonderful they may be, isn't a very exciting prospect for a lot of people. Since I know it can be kind of difficult to want to sit down and listen to conference I thought I'd share a few things that you can do to make it a little more meaningful.

1) Be well rested.
     - When you're tired it's a lot harder to pay attention and you are less receptive to the whisperings of the spirit.

2) Take notes.
     - Taking notes forces you to really listen to the speakers and it also gives you something to go back and look at when you need a little uplifting.

3) Fight the temptation to lay down. Watch conference sitting up.
     - We all know the voices of those wonderful men are like lullabies and if you close your eyes you'll be a goner!

4) Write down any questions you have or things that you've been struggling with beforehand
     - This is probably my favorite thing to do because I know it works. One by one you will hear the answers to your questions, either through the words that are being spoken, the whisperings of the spirit, or through the thoughts that come to your mind.

5) Make it a game.
     - Look to see what color of tie the speakers are wearing. Every time the speaker says a certain word, everyone gets a piece of candy. Play Conference Bingo.You can find any number of games and activities on Google or Pinterest that make watching conference fun!

6) Remember who is speaking
    - If you were told God himself would be one of the speakers, you would definitely make time to listen, really listen to what He had to say. God is speaking through these men and women. You don't want to miss what He has to say!

I know weekends are busy and you might miss a session. Don't worry! You can watch the whole thing on lds.org. I love General Conference and I can't wait to watch it tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Day That Changed My Life

October 6, 2012. The day that changed my life and the lives of so many others.

That beautiful Saturday morning I sat down to watch the semi-annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I had written down a few questions hoping to hear an answer in one of the sessions. Among these questions was should I serve a mission? It was written as an after thought. I mean, I couldn't even go until I was 21 and that was 3 years away! Then this happened.

I was so excited that I was laughing and crying at the same time and my roommates surely thought I had lost it. For some, this announcement alone was their answer. I'm a little more stubborn. I knew that I wanted to go, but I needed to know that I was supposed to.

And so it began. I fasted and prayed, I studied the scriptures, I started going to the temple more often. I read every talk about missionary work known to man, and watched every mission-related video on the internet (this is where the addiction to mission call videos started). I even signed up for mission prep! But no matter how hard I tried, I just didn't feel like I was getting an answer.

After 3 months I decided to talk to my bishop. He gave me a copy of Preach My Gospel and a Missionary Handbook and advised me to continue doing all of the things I was already doing. He told me that I was choosing between 2 good things: education and a mission. Heavenly Father wasn't going to tell me what to do. I had to make a decision and ask Him if it was right. Maybe both of them were right and it was going to be up to me. I can't say I loved that idea at the time. I was also given a priesthood blessing in which I was promised that if I studied it out and made a decision and then fasted about it, I would receive a sure answer, and here's the life-changing advice, I was told that once I had made the decision and received an answer, I should stick to it and not look back, just keep going.

I left that meeting confident that I would receive my answer and that it would be something that I could not deny. I think I was expecting something like a vision or a pillar of fire or maybe a nice email from God himself telling me whether I should or should not serve a mission. Unfortunately, none of those things happened. Rather the answer came piece by piece, through some advice from a friend, inspired words in sacrament meeting, a perfect scripture every now and then, the death of a loved one who never had the gospel, and feeling the love of God in any number of instances in my life.

I still wasn't completely sure it was right when I finally started my papers almost 2 months after talking to my bishop, but as I've been preparing to serve I have truly come to know that this is what I am supposed to do. I don't think that Heavenly Father would have minded if I stayed at the University, but He definitely doesn't mind if I go out and teach the gospel to some of his children either. I want everyone to feel the joy and the peace that I feel. I want them to know that they have a loving Father in Heaven and a Savior who atoned for their sins and who knows exactly what they're going through. I want them to know what I know. I have had my doubts, believe me. But every time I think that I might be going down the wrong path I hear the words of my bishop, "Stick to it and don't look back. Just keep going." And so I do.

P.S. My papers will hopefully go in this Sunday! YAY!!!

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Today I feel blessed, very, very blessed.
There is no other word to describe it. I have an amazing family that supports me in all I do, gives awesome advice, and never fails to make me smile. I have roommates that I can confide in, that go to the temple with me every week, and have definitely become my best friends. I live in a world that is full of beauty. I have the fullness of the gospel in my life. And most importantly, with it being Easter and all, I have a Savior who loves me and atoned for my sins and overcame death so that I could return to live with my Heavenly Father again.

I know that my Redeemer lives.  I know that Jesus is the Christ and that the Atonement is real. I know that He lived and that He lives again. My Savior knows me and loves me individually. He is ALWAYS there. He will never leave you. He loves you so, so much and He wants you to come unto Him. I am so incredibly grateful for my Savior and for His atoning sacrifice. Because of him we can return to live with our Father in Heaven again someday. I love this glorious gospel and I am so blessed to have it in my life. 
Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Here We Go

I've been considering making a blog for about a year now, but here's the thing. I couldn't think of a name. I tried countless times to come up with something that was witty and creative and perfect. I agonized over it for weeks, MONTHS!

Okay, maybe not agonizedBut no matter how hard I thought, I couldn't think of anything at all. Then a miracle occurred folks. I found out that the name of a blog is NOT permanent. Hallelujah, praise the Lord! So I came up with a name that was neither witty nor creative and here we are.

Anyways, I might as well tell you a little bit about me and why I thought I oughta start a blog.

I go to the University of Utah and am majoring in Advanced Indecision. Or in other words, I don't really know what I want to do with my life quite yet but I'm considering physical therapy. I am a below-the-knee amputee and I have been since I was 14 months old.  I'll elaborate on that in a future post. I am a soon-to-be missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I am so excited! I believe in a loving Heavenly Father and a Savior who knows me perfectly and I want to share the happiness of the gospel with whoever Heavenly Father would have me share it with. I love spending time with my crazy family and friends and I love them very much.  I want to be a mommy when I grow up. I'm a sucker for chick flicks and homemade chocolate chip cookies and I have an addiction to ice cream, shopping, and watching mission call videos. My roommates have become my best friends. I love the smell of the rain and I believe there is a relatable country song for every situation in life. I'm not real fond of shoe shopping or the cold and I'm absolutely terrified of needles. I believe everything happens for a reason and that it always works out in the end. I love being me :)

I started a blog because I'm going on a mission and I want to keep people up to date on my life and also because A LOT of things go through my mind, and every once in a while I think "Wow Shalee, that's an awesome thought! Too bad the rest of the world doesn't know what you're thinking!" Well, here you go world. You're welcome.