Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Where is home?

I want to tell everyone a story. I remember my first few days at the University of Washington, ready to start my first year of college. It would be my first time living away from home, my first time being my own boss, deciding my own curfew, making all my own decisions. Most eighteen year olds love this kinda stuff - I was petrified. My mom and dad helped me move all my stuff into my dorm, make my bed and buy my first groceries. All the time I joked with them and laughed, trying not to think about the knot twisting in my stomach as I thought of the prospect of being left here all alone. Suddenly it was time to go to Husky Stadium for the freshman welcome shebang and as we drove towards the stadium I played out in my head how I was going to say goodbye to my parents. I would hug my dad and still be able to keep it together, but then I was sure that I would hug my mom and just melt down and cry, making a scene in front of all the other impossibly cool freshmen who were actually excited at the anticipation of their newfound freedom. Not me. I wasn’t ready. I needed a few more days, or maybe years. The cutting of my umbilical cord was long overdue. So as I contemplated this dramatic scene, we came to a stoplight almost across the street from Husky Stadium. My mom turned around in her seat, looked at me and said, “Why don’t you just get out here?”
I stared at her. “You’re kidding.”
“Nope. Go on, get out. We’ll see you at Christmas! Love you!”
Without even really registering what was going on I was unceremoniously turned out of the car onto the sidewalk without even so much as a hug from my mom. Ok, she gave me a kiss on the cheek. But still, she didn’t even give me the chance to have my meltdown. Then my parents were gone. (I guess she couldn’t bear a drawn out goodbye. She broke down in tears as soon as they drove away. Served her right for leaving me like that!)
So anyways, I fought back my tears, found my way to the stadium and participated in the festivities. I made some friends, had a little bit of fun, but I still made my way back to my dorm that day feeling empty and lonely and scared inside. As I walked, I prayed. I didn’t have a good habit of praying, but I prayed hard that day for Heavenly Father to comfort me. Comfort didn’t come to me right away, but I remembered that my mom and dad had taken me to church at the Seattle Institute of Religion the Sunday before. I still remember the first time I walked into the institute by myself. Sister Williams was at the front desk. I was on the verge of tears as I explained to her that I was a new freshman and really didn’t know what I was doing. She showed me the institute class registration form and the classes that were available. I calmed down a bit. I recognized the Spirit. And for the first time away from home, I felt at home. As the school year progressed I made room for institute in my life and saw a huge difference in my happiness the more I participated.
The institute has helped to build my testimony of the church more than almost anything else - except the Book of Mormon. This is because it was here that I learned that home is not where the heart is, home is where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. Every dedicated church building is blessed with the presence of the Spirit, the world over. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we are going through, we can find peace, comfort, and our home in the Lord’s houses. I know that my most treasured memories and greatest friendships happened here, as I grew closer to Christ and I know that as we make institute a priority in our lives, we’ll find our way home. I would invite everyone, no matter how old or young you are, college student or professional, married or single, to come to institute. Give Heavenly Father a chance bless you even more.

- Natalie Jex-Landoe, senior at the University of Washington

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bonjour mes amis!

Oh, pardon, I meant “Hello friends”.
I was lucky enough to spend last fall in Europe! I know, way cool! I studied literature, culture and film in Paris, and enjoyed all that London and Dublin had to offer on the way! I learned a lot about other people, other cultures, and myself while I was out, but two of the most important lessons I learned are these:
1.       My Heavenly Father wants me to be happy, and the church is designed for that. For reasons I can’t explain, I got it stuck in my head that in order to be a faithful member, I had to ONLY do things that fit what I thought was the “perfect Mormon mold”. ie. If I am not delivering someone cookies or studying better homemaking RIGHT NOW, I wasn’t good enough. Unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed myself on this trip, and I was able to strengthen my testimony that He knew what I was doing, He was watching over me, and He was even happy that I was happy, even though I wasn’t studying my scriptures every single second, and sometimes I missed church because I was travelling. This doesn’t just apply to me or travelling, however. He knows all of us, He knows what we thrive on and what makes us smile, and He wants those things for us! We can live a full life on this earth and be faithful members at the same time. Sounds pretty obvious, huh? It wasn’t for me, and I can tell you it was a total game changer.

2.       The happiness I can get from travelling the world doesn’t even come close to the happiness I can feel from the gospel. In fact, the joy that I can receive from the gospel is so powerful and far reaching I’ve discovered that it IS actually possible to be happy even when you have to get up at 5 am in the Seattle rain every day for work. Astounding! But in order to access that happiness, I have to be connected to the gospel, connected to the spirit, more than just learning how to say “I’m a Mormon” in a different language! Temple attendance is a great way for me to strengthen that connection, but what is even easier to access is Institute. I LOVE going to institute. An hour spent diving into the scriptures in a room full of others all seeking truth has an AMAZING impact on my week, and I find myself looking forward to institute more than anything else in my schedule.

There have been times in my past when my institute attendance was far more driven by guilt than a desire to learn, and I can’t tell you what an incredible difference it has made for me to go with a new perspective.  I urge and invite you to listen to President Monson and make institute a priority; if it can help me be as happy here on a cold Monday morning walking to work as I was walking through Paris on a sunny afternoon, who knows what it can do for your day!