Same Two Feet

So at college I was reminded of a story I've already used on this blog. The story of Peter walking on water. Only this time I think it became a little more real for me. Because, as far as I could tell, being out there for me was doing the impossible.

And I feel silly for saying that. All my friends seemed to take to college like a fish to water. I'd go see them and they'd be so happy and excited about everything. They knew fun people and went wherever they wanted like they owned the place. So naturally, I got all happy and excited for everything. Only I took it more like, well, a desert lizard to a foot of snow I guess.

And its not that it was bad. Not at all! I was very, very, very, very blessed in roommates and neighbors and leaders, and my teachers, and even my ward. And I wasn't at all under stocked on warm clothing. Its just that it was something I could hardly see myself doing. There were several days throughout both semesters that it would hit me that I was actually at college! Buying my own groceries and everything!

And those were the days when it felt like I was just walking. Like I always had been. Same two feet. Same size 6 1/2, 7s. Which, to me, was a miracle!! Because I could've made a list of worst fears before I came.

  • Getting lost
  • Crashing my car
  • Slipping on ice
  • Culture shock
  • Crashing my car
  • Crazy hard homework
  • Chronic Homesickness
  • No Grandma's House
  • Working out where everyone else is working out and they can all see me (Yes. This is somewhat of a fear I have :-)
  • Crashing my car
  • Lots of people
  • ...and on on
And none of that happened! I mean yeah I had to get used to a few things and yeah I really missed home sometimes. I may have pulled out in front of a car. But it was never to the extent that I couldn't find ways to figure it out. It never got in the way of my grades or my testimony or the important stuff. 

And it wasn't really until I was getting ready to leave that I realized what a miracle it was! Sure I'd fallen a few times, but my Savior had always been there to catch me. Sure there were storms raging around me with all the trials that come with life and growing up but when I refocused my gaze I was fine.  I had done it! In the terms of Annelie, I had walked on water! 

Same two feet. Same size 6 1/2, 7s. But with the help of one who'd already walked those waters for me. 

Now to build up the courage for my next ocean.


Bunch of Bricks

So I'm finally back. Last semester was an uphill battle for me and I don't know what possessed me to think I'd have more time to write this in college. But I did make a list of the ideas that I got and, hopefully, I can get through them before I go off an join the ranks! Translation: Chesapeake Virginia Mission, here I come!!

First off, just an announcement: I went out into the world (or, as much of the world as BYUI gets that is :) and I'm not a pancake!! I made it! I realized that while the whole 'being hit with a load of bricks' did happen, Heavenly Father graciously only allowed one brick to fall at a time. Like when I naively signed up for one of the World Studies Foundations classes and took Pakistan. Yeah. Nightmares. But it was good for me. I often felt I was the only one visibly cringing and ducking behind my Disney-sticker-decorated laptop at some of the things we discussed but it allowed me to view some of the world at, I guess, a safe distance.

Another brick was my Foundations Capstone class where we look at real-life issues such as child labor laws, the death penalty, and the like and make decisions on them. We also talked about how foolish it can be to not only be a pessimist, but a full-fledged optimist.


This didn't help me as I was already trying to figure out how to take everything else in. I wanted to be happy. To see the world and the people around me like I had before. But now I noticed more things. I guess it was only part of growing up, but I didn't like it. So its a good thing that teacher followed up with that statement because I might've been left a mess.

He said that what we really need to be was, what he called, an improver. Pessimists didn't see the solution and optimists didn't see the problem. In order for us to really make a difference in the world, we needed to see both.


"Well, gee, I'm all for making differences," I thought to myself. That changed the semester for me. Instead of just complaining or turning my head the other way I learned that the best way to cope was to see what I could do about the problem, always trusting on my Father in Heaven. Especially when the problem was out of my circle of influence, like in my Pakistan class.

So that' s basically what that bunch of bricks taught Annelie. I learned that I could choose to be flattened, I could choose to ignore them, or I could take them and build a beautiful castle.

And I learned that we're never given more or less than we can use. We're given just what we need according to the Great Contractor of Castles.


A College Kid's Prayer

Heavenly Father, are you really there? And do you hear and answer every child's prayer?  Some say that Heaven isn't just far away, but doesn't even exist. And there are times you aren't quite as close when I pray.

Heavenly Father, I remember now, something that Jesus told disciples long ago. "Suffer the children to come to me" ...Father am I still pure enough to come now to thee?

I often feel I know too much. Or do I know too little? Of all the subjects, grades, and credits Heavenly Father, will you teach me?

From the genius of thou who put molecules and planets into orbit, wilt though help me find my center?

From He who numbers the sands of the sea and the hairs of my head wilt thou open my mind so that I may add the positive and subtract the negative. That the tears of frustration that stain my path from the testing center may become ones of joy on the path to victory.

From the great musician who orchestrates the harmonies of birds on a sunny day and the percussion of rain on cloudy ones, wilt thou show me how to use my whole lungs and sing with the varied key of each new day a song of praise.

From the master record-keeper and historian who has heard the drums of war and tasted the fear of every soldier wilt thou show me the significance of my own battles? My own history which lies not in illustrated text but in a scribbled notebook.

From the creator of art who painted the sunsets and carved the mountains, remind me that I and those around me were molded by thy masterful hands and that such a mold was never intended to create duplicates. To beautify the lives of others as you have so bountifully beautified mine.

Because, now that I've opened my eyes, you have. I thank you for your miracles. For the fact that I can function on the lack of sleep that I do. For extending time somehow, Father, because how else would I fit all that I do into one day? For strengthening my legs as I race from class to class and softening my chair as I do pile after pile of homework.

I thank you that the taste of sandwiches and granola bars has yet to grow old. That there are nice people who not only fix my car battery but accept my lousy cookies--because we both know they were lousy. I thank you for thrift stores, sewing kits, and nearby ice cream shops. For therapy like friends, dishes, dances, walks, and free tutoring sessions. For the concourses of angels, seen and unseen. For this stillness.

And with these thoughts, Father, I see now that you are here.
That you are listening. To every compliment and every complaint.
That I am your child. As are all those I pass by every day.
I realize your love has surrounded me, whether I've initially felt it or not.
You hear every prayer.
You love every child.
And of such love--love that can make me pure--is the Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven.

Scary Storms

First off, I'm just glad to be functioning today. Between my first two airplane flights, cramming a hundred and five hugs/activities into one week, and then trying to dive back into new classes its no wonder my roommates have been laughing at my recent thinking process. It goes well with my hair color. Makes it stand out more :) And I think its those laughs that made me survive it.

Because its been more than that. I've titled it "Before Mission Syndrome". Or I guess, just life. Discouragement that make your goals seem dark and foreboding and temptations that make less-than-goals seem appealing. Both create a pretty thick cloud of darkness and I've learned to push through them from last semester. But when you have homework to do, dances to attend, and Disney songs to sing to your roommates, there's less time to really focus on the moving forward part.

So I sometimes get stuck. And when I finally have time to breath--like in church--it really hits. With each new lesson I felt more overwhelmed. I felt I had nothing left inside me to give, let alone have a good attitude about it. Yet, I did my best to make some convictions with the idea that perhaps trying them would help me feel back to normal. Especially since a lot of them were focused on service and things that really do "un-slump" you, as Dr. Suess would put it :)

But even then things seem to get worse and if there's one thing I've learned from all this, its that the adversary is real. Voices that seem to slide so easily and so disguised into my thoughts began to whisper that it was a hopeless cause. I had too much to do. I didn't have time to do my roommates dishes. And I'd been reading my scriptures and saying my prayers all week, so why was I feeling like this today? Did I even have the strength to do any more?

Of course, lots of good things happened this week. There were lots of moments of enlightenment, lots of laughs, and lots of prayers of thanks said on my part. But suddenly all I could see were the harder moments. Stress from my classes when I realized I forgot new assignments. My more negative thoughts I'd had towards others and myself. My weaker moments that ate at my self-worth.  The day I came home from class, flopped on my bed, and just began crying from fighting thoughts like this to begin with.

Finally, by the time Relief Society started, I was ready to spiritually throw my hands up and stop battling it.
"Oh well," I thought. But, strangely, that became almost a stronger inner battle cry than a call of surrender.

Oh well. So what if I'm not everything I want to be. So what if this hasn't been the best week for me. So what if I don't know how to handle every situation. So what if I sometimes go days with prayer after pleading prayer in my heart and hear no answer.

Then, with a conviction I didn't know I had, I told those nasty voices that I'd gone all morning doing what I'm supposed to do without feeling rewarded, I could go my whole life! retrospect I'm not quite sure that I could. It may have been a little bluffing, but it was enough to motivate myself to participate in class anyways. And as I did, my voice sounded much stronger and much calmer than I felt. And that helped. There truly is power in participation.

And then we read Alma 5:33, "Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent and I will receive you."

But for me it was more of a "I will receive you." A sincere firmness that instantly brought tears to my eyes and cleared away the whole storm. No matter what silly thoughts swirled in my mind, the truths of truths was that if I doing the things I knew I needed to be doing, my Savior was there.

I guess what I'm getting from this is one of my new favorite quotes, "Don't tell God how big your storm is, tell your storm how big your God is."

And no matter how fruitless our efforts may seem, it's SO true that you cannot give a crust to the Lord without receiving a loaf in return. He just might wait until you have room in your pantry to receive it :)


One Semester Down!

Well…I made it! It was crazy to me today as I knelt down in a prayer of tearful thanks for a great semester that about four months ago I’d done the same in tearful anxiety. It was a whirlwind, just as everyone told me. Days flowed into weeks which flowed into months which flowed into a semester. I’m not sure how it happened, but it did. And I realized today as I bore my testimony in the last sacrament meeting of the semester, just as I had the first, that I sounded much more confident.

Obviously I’ve learned A TON!!!  It is college after all. Art class doesn’t let me see my surroundings the same ever again. Math class taught me finances and the power of missionary work. Science, a different take on the evolution theory, and American Foundations how to be closer to the sort of citizen the founding fathers intended.  And missionary prep has me wanting to grab my scriptures and hop a plane.
But there are other classrooms. My dorm has taught me the power of patience, persistence, prayer, and hugs. And mostly of making sure it’s not my dishes that are dirty before I up and decide that everyone else’s needs some cleaning.

Dancing activities has been another classroom. Because unfortunately there’s little instruction on the fancy footwork of social skills.

And the temple has taught me plenty as well, most of which tied to the common theme of slowing down. A good lesson for a college kid who tries to cram lunch, her favorite show, remaining homework, and devotional all in between two of her classes.

And we all know of the classroom of mistakes of course. That’s one we graduate don’t from until we leave the planet.

But overall it’s been just what I felt it would be. A journey with my Savior. I’m sure He smiled at my near-conniption reaction to someone trying to hold my hand and my similar response when I basically ran a red light. But I also know that he cheered with me with my successes and cried with me with my disappointments. There were many instances when I didn’t feel it and I was tempted to think that the Heavens had suddenly grown numb towards me—or worse—I’d grown numb to them.  But sitting in a fog doesn’t get you out of it near as well as pushing through it does.

And this certainly isn’t my first journey. Just my trip to the airport for my first flight EVER has told me that J I still have more semesters ahead of me. And a mission. And a future family. And a dream career. And wherever else I feel the wind pulling me I suppose, like my childhood hero Pocahontas.  ...Although I don’t remember Pocahontas ever bawling her eyes out at the idea of leaving her little brothers and her grandma’s icecream and her warm fireplace--to say nothing of my second hero John Smith. But that’s beside the point J Either way, I can’t wait to see what’s around the river bend.

Until then, I can’t wait to get home!!! Even if it is for just five days. I’ve got friends’ ears to talk off, Mr. Gs pizza to eat, and—yes—pretend games to play. And when you have a little neighbor girl who promises to stay up until midnight to see your car drive up into the driveway, how could you not. I haven’t met many celebrities, but I think I may have some top hand there J


Hope and Healthcare

My mission prep. teacher is inspired. I'm completely convinced. Not only has his assigned pattern of scripture reading saved me on a daily basis, but so has the big 'project' he gave us. We're supposed to choose one of the Christ-like Attributes listed in the Preach My Gospel manual and develop it throughout the semester. For a grade, because this place is awesome like that. I felt to choose Hope.

I was skeptic of this feeling at first. It just sounded too..., I don't know, happy-go-lucky? Easy? Besides, I'd never really seen myself as the type to dwell in despair. But the more I read about it and thought about it the more I realized this was the one I needed, as it was the beginning of the semester. I was feeling a little stretched thin between things and had, as a result, let those pesky little doubts strike yet again.

Most of the battle has been evident internally as I insist to myself that things will work out--just as they always have--and that I will measure up to all I need to do. But it wasn't until this weekend that I saw a more tangible example.

I had walked into the student healthcare center looking rather lost until the guy at the desk told me he could help me.

"Okay, thanks," I hurried over, "I need...I'm going on my--a--mission soon and I was wondering what I needed to do...for that."

Luckily he was able to translate and began lining me out for immunizations and a physical. I felt rather relieved until he looked up and said,



"'s uh...erm...heh...hmm...I don't remember. I think its..."

"You can bring it next time. Just make sure you do. Now, what block are you on?"

"First. ....oh! I mean winter-spring. Heheh, sorry."

He sort of gave me this smirk I was sure was reserved for freshmen only but I did my best to smile and act like I knew what I was doing anyways. Finally, after a suffering through a few more stuttering sentences, I finally left.

It wasn't until I got a good five feet away from the building--after rattling off my social security number too myself like nothing--that I burst into laughter. I'm sure I looked totally adequate for a mission with such an eloquent performance.

And then, as I continued to walk home, I realized it tied perfectly into my project. Hope really was a Christ-like trait. And it wasn't always easy. It meant taking my stuttering, naïve words and full-on believing that they could be turned into something else. They could be made into powerful tools. Tools that would reach to the very soul, not just to the skeptic ears.

It was believing that He could take my limited view of the world and turn in into something that could help someone else see the world more broadly. Believing that He would turn my hard days into my most meaningful and most favored ones.

I've learned that hope isn't just the stuff of happy-endings--while it certainly is so, and I'm a firm believer in them--but its more the stuff of what happens before all of that. It's an anchor when things aren't happy at all.  Just as when Christ healed those whose circumstances seemed permanent or gave words of light to those in lost in darkness. Or when he forgave those who crucified him. 

Hope is peace and, as one of my favorite youth speakers once said, peace is something deeper, something more sustaining than happiness.

Like I said, inspired.

One-On-One Field Trip

We're already planning the closing social in the 33rd ward over here. And yes, I said 33rd. Holy mass Mormon exodus every Sunday! It took me two weeks to figure out where all the different classes were at and twice that to come to grips that we had 3 different relief societies within that one 33rd ward.

But, back to the point, this semester, as everyone promised, has FLOWN by!! And I have failed horribly at doing any of it justice on this blog so I'm going to try and fix that today. Try and make-up for it, because deciding a major was only one of the adventures. And a pretty mediocre one at that. So, here's the skinny of Annelie's Crazy College Chronicles.

1. Between me and my roommates, we have zero decorations in our living room. But we have plenty of expressive noise. A good mix of classical music, OneDirection, Asian dramas in Japenese, Harry Potter, Phineas and Ferb (my contribution), bursts of laughter over the latest pun by our home evening brothers, and a snap or two at whoever forgot to replace the toilet paper.

2. Security guards and hopping walls. A first in all time Annelie history, I assure you. But when you forget to move your car out of the driveway so they can plow out the foot of snow in the parking lot, its either move it and miss curfew or get it towed. I love the super-helpful security guard who didn't have the keys to the gate of the apartment complex. "Well. You can text a roommate or climb over."
I've done both since. (If only to say that I've done the second ;)

3. Swing dancing workshops are great. And the actual dances after are even better!
"Alright, who has a birthday in February? ...Only one person? What's your name? Annelie? Cool. Hey 19--that's missionary age. Now, all you guys in here, let's circle around Annelie here and see which one of you can dance with her the most!"

Somehow I came out of all that unscathed other than a loose flower pin. An impressive feat on their part!

4. I hear choirs of ego-stroking angels singing in Writer's Workshop. I never thought it was possible for people to love my characters as much as I do. Me and the fictional Clavis de Veritas have been making out like literary bandits! And this is to say nothing of the horizon-broadening ideas those people have presented! I would've never in a million years thought up the sorts of ideas my fellow writers seem to come up with! It's awesomeness all over the place :D Now if only my swing dancing, would stop taking over...

5. Mission Prep is worth graduation credits. By rights that shouldn't even be fair, but at a school like this it is. And it rocks! I think a good way to describe my teacher is that he's recently been called to be a mission president. He's so...just amazing, that I almost hate asking questions because they sound so dumb and petty compared to his vast understanding. But, as a little voice said to me as I was leaving class one day, sometimes it takes asking the dumb questions to accumulate the wisdom you need.

6. The temple is a fifteen-minute walk from my front door. One word: spoiled! But it's been an amazing tool for me. Someone said at church today that, contrary to what they had expected, they actually feel like they have more trials on this church campus than their high school where they were the minority. But they made an interesting point, that maybe here is a place that the Lord knows we can learn and grow away from those other things and so we're given trials in order to do that. I think I agree with that person. In that father's blessing I was given before I came it even said I'd be faced with trials. And not just flu bugs and frozen car doors, but deeper ones. And boy have I been.

So many times 'clouds of darkness' have hovered over me all day. Clouds of discouragement or confusion or just feeling negative and overwhelmed. They might leave for that mission prep class but they're there waiting outside the door for me as soon as its over. And they strike especially hard those few moments before devotional or Friday mornings before I go to the temple because its those two things that really help me to fight them off. And not just on those days, but in the moments in between. I've gained lots from battling them, including a testimony of the temple. I think I've gained a greater testimony of it here than I ever really had at home, actually. And I guess it shows because the temple workers have started saying as I leave, "See ya next Friday!"

7. Dating...oh dating. That's almost become a whole different chronicle, though I've really only gone one dates with two different guys. Almost three. The first one sent me a text asking if I wanted to 'hang' and I about referred him to every journal entry I had on homecoming, prom, and whatever else to let him know how you really did things. Guess those good ol' joe city guys have me spoiled with putting donuts in my locker and mannequins in my car. :)

And then there's that super sweet guy who made the mistake of trying to hold late-bloomer, naïve, awkward Annelie's hand. Poor, poor guy. I strategically avoided it for at least half the walk home by grabbing his arm in attempt to make him escort me instead but my play-dumb strategy only lasted so long before he finally grabbed my hand. Only...I couldn't bring myself to grab back so my fingers just sort of hung there. Awkwardly. Cracks me up now, but I was about in panic mode in the moment--something I'm sure you can all imagine. My inner alarm system went off in the form of a sudden passion on the topic of my mission prep class, my mission prep teacher, my mission prep lessons, and basically anything else that said, "You don't want this blob of weirdness on legs. Trrrust me".

And then on a creative home-made egg-noodle and carving Batman out of candle date, I accidentally made the guy bring me home an hour before the later Friday-night curfew. But hey, I wasn't about to climb any more walls.

8. I could easily brag--and support with facts--that I have the best home evening brothers on the entire campus. Who else goes snowboarding in the other brother's cow costume? Who else writes the dumbest things on your birthday card or cracks jokes in his natural British accent? Who else starts touching people's ankles in the middle of murder in the dark to make them jump five feet in the air or leaps off of your balcony rather than taking the stairs? They give you hugs, pelt you with snowballs, trash you at card games, pick you up and throw you in the snow, teach a lesson with a Rubik's cube, sincerely tell you that your 'dating score sheet' ought to be kept in the bathroom, speak like champs at stake conference, bury you the snow, keep a lifetime supply of pineapples and hot-chocolate in their dorm, and give you a ride home after your soaked from your hair to your socks. There's eight of them and we LOVE them!!

9. Netflix. Am I right?

10. Oddities. Whether you have a knitted Viking hat with a full-blown beard, a top-hat and Mr. Darcy scowl to match, a swim-cap over a cowboy hat, a beanie with moose antlers, or a song on your iPod that you apparently want the whole campus to hear, you people make my day! I actually went out of my way to get a newspaper from the guy dressed up in suspenders, brown shoes, and cap shouting, "New Missions announced, read all about it! Extra, extra!"

11. Teachers!! That's another thing I've always been blessed with and it continues here. My math teacher is just good--inside and out. Good and logical and fun and simple. Very important traits for me when it comes to math. My art teacher makes my gut hurt from laughing, my American Foundations teacher was probably friends with the founding fathers in the premortal life, and my science teacher's passion is hunting and fishing.

12. Leaders. I've been blessed to always have bishops I adore. I think I could take this one back with me to Joseph City and he'd fit like a glove. The guy reminds me so much of hometown bishop and I think there's a reason for that :) It's the same with Stake presidents. I tend to get about the same excitement about hearing my stake presidents speak that I get when a general authority speaks.  President Spencer and President Hancock will always hold a super-special place in my heart and I can tell this guy's gonna grow on me quick as well. My dorm mom invites us over for Tangled and The Emperor's New Groove. And my relief society president's talent is quite literally to hug. She shared it at the talent show and everything. So, overall, I think I'm in good hands :) And because of all of them, those sacrament meetings that seemed to be dedicated to my current concern still happen, just as they did back home.

So He was right all those nights ago when I was walking away from my parents. He's got me. I've definitely hit some rough spots. I left choir practice early once and raced out of the church building just in time for a flood of sobs and tears to come flowing. I've had to learn to be patient with roommates--or rather, to look at my own reflection--because I no longer have my own room and my own elbow room of five or so miles when I need to get away. I've been stressed. I've been bitter. I've even been complacent.

But I've been fighting, praying, and pushing harder than I ever remember and He's never left my side. There have actually been a lot of times when that sensation of someone's arm around me returns, often just on my way to my next class.

 I remember feeling at some point that this would be a journey with my Savior. Like He was pleased with what I'd learned so far in life, but now He was taking me aside. Taking me with Him on a one-on-one field to a place completely different. A place where nothing was familiar. Nothing, that is, except for Him. That way we could observe together and learn. We could see things like the newspaper boys and laugh or sit in class and absorb. But at the same time we would cry. We would experience pain and confusion. We would feel weak and tired. We would even--I might venture--argue. Like any traveling partners who have different opinions on which highway is the easiest to take.

But He has always been there! And if He's ever felt tired or discouraged it's probably been with my insisting on trying the same thing and wanting a different result or my lack of faith despite the daily miracles he unfolds before my eyes. But when I finally decide to shape up and find my tour guide again, He has been there. 

Because I no longer have my own bedroom to speak aloud during my prayers, one of my most favorite places to pray when things get "real intense" has become the humble location of the bathroom. But even there, kneeling, reasoning, and sometimes sobbing on the tiles, I have felt Him kneeling beside me and just holding me.

So to those clouds of darkness that try so hard to knock me off balance and to those negative patterns of thought that I need to knock off balance, "The Lord is my light so why should I fear? By day and by night His presence is near."