Dan and I cam home and I just typed my ideas for over an hour as quickly as I could. If you want to know the mind and thoughts of Alyssa Holbrook completely unedited this is it. This is the least I've ever edited anything in my life (whatever I wrote stayed!) so it's a completely honest portrayal of me: it discusses something I've learned from every one of my classes, the change I want to see in the world, and the joy of making wishes come true.
I love Daniel’s fervor! He’s sitting right next to me and typing like crazy.
Last night we met with David Crapo, who talked to us with such passion about finding our mission in life, what drives us.
He asked Dan what he thought about when he wasn’t thinking about anything. I knew the answer for me: serving and paint a wish. And that’s a recent development. I feel this call on my life---it’s more than a stewardship, it’s a driving force that compells me to service. And I haven’t felt drawn to serve like it’s a nice thing to do; I have gained a seriousness about service that I never knew was possible!
When David talked about how some people when they see a child with down syndrome who is happily playing and it just makes them want to cry; when they see a child who can’t move watercolor it moves them to complete compassion where they would give up anything to help that soul in need.
That spirit and determination to put people first in my life has overtaken me in the last few weeks. Just yesterday a young man who is blind came into the logic lab to prepare for his test. He carried his braille writer and after a little while was going to walk home. I asked if I could accompany him and he only wanted me to come if it wasn’t out of my way; well, that’s not what ended up happening. I walked with him across campus and to his housing talking all the way --- and I knew I didn’t want to be another person who asked him the basics: where was he from etc. He’s a freshman and that seems to be the freshman mentality. We began talking about ourselves and what times in life were hardest for us; his was high school. He told me about how it is to be at BYU and how he doesn’t have cooked meals and I offered to bring him bread that I bake every Sunday and he was so excited! He asked when and we found a way to get it to him. He said he hadn’t gained the “freshman 15” at all, he was kind of starving himself. He told me truly what he had eaten that day: 4 packs of trail mix. He was going to the game last night and I was really going to go with him! Anyway, talking with Kirk changed my perspective on life. I dont realize how often I mention how beautiful the mountains or leaves are (I wanted to so badly just describe them to him and let him see) and I didn’t realize how hard it is that the squares of pavement on campus have little bumps in them because his walking stick would get caught on those. I didn’t realize how many curvy sidewalks there are on campus. And most of all, we found things to laugh about that would have never been funny before. There was a man walking straight at us and he wasn’t moving to go around my friend---then I realized the old man was practically blind and couldn’t see Kirk! He ran right into him! Kirk immediately apologized (which made me sad how second nature that had been to him) and he explained “usually people who see the blind boy immediately move right out of the way! I wonder why that person didn’t?” He thought it was hilarious that the man couldn’t see either! And I would have never thought that braille writers were so so heavy --- like 15 pounds at least! And he could only carry it with one arm because he had his stick in the other. And I didn’t realize how logic would be so completely hard in logic -- he just made up a sign for “or” (a term used in logic). I also realized how much we had in common. He said he had thought he wanted to be the typical “blind lawyer” but he’s realized how little of a human element there is with what he’s experienced of logic---which is a HUGE part of law! How ironic that we face the same thoughts and struggles with figuring out our future: I have been thinking the same thing! I am leaning away from law because it is so much memorizing teeny little rules and applying them. We were so caught up in this conversation that we walked right past his apartment -- the funny thing? He was the one who realized we had gone too far.
So back to last night with David. I realized that I have a huge passion for people and serving people and that is unique---David felt that passion in a very different way. David talked about a brand of car---you are some brand of person and you want to specialize in that one thing so that a graduate school doesn’t look at you and see a volvo with a spoiler and think that only your brother would buy you. He suggested that we look in a longer scheme of things to find out what we are--are we a manager? Consulter? and even further, are we a planner--someone who has an exact vision and plan for his life? (that’s totally me! I hate not knowing what I do and it consumes me until I figure out my ultimate goal and the thing I’m working toward). As I look to my childhood and highschool and college and see a theme: I see an entrepreneur who loves service!
I started lots of fun businesses:
I “interned” as a 12 year old at Mrs. Ditto’s preschool and visited several classrooms to help teach and then started my own preschool where parents payed to leave their kids in our basement while they did their Christmas shopping.
I began selling “flag pins” safety pins that had beads strung on them to look like a flag. I sold them for 1$ each at an art show and though these people would be at the art show and looking at all this expensive art, they would see this 12 year old girl selling something for a dollar and they would buy it! I was sold out of the 63 I came with that day and I asked my mom if we could go home. I quickly made more and sold those too! I was so excited to calculate the profit that I’d made-- and all in a few hours!
Dillon and I began a vending machine business that paid for my car’s gas (and part of my car) all through highschool and gave us more money for clothing or other investing. It was so fun because Dillon and I would have been home schooling all day and by the afternoon we’d be a little tired and grumpy but we’d load up the junk food and take it to the school listening to fun music the whole way. At the school the kids all loved us and thought we were so fascinating and that it was so neat to see how a vending machine worked, that we felt like heroes every time we left. I remember having the brain for accounting and how I’d love figuring how much he and I got paid and how much tithing came out and PTA funding came from the machine etc.
Then by the age of 14 my parents had encouraged me to buy a mobile home; to invest my money (and they gave me a loan too :)). I had learned a lot by reading Rich Dad Poor Dad, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and other books and it was time to put it into practice. I had learned most of all by Dad taking me with him on his business trips and the whole few hour drive we’d talk about finances and I loved it! So as we started growing the profit from this first mobile home it turned into more and more mobile homes! I learned good hard work by scrubbing out 3 month old milk from a fridge, laying carpet (which involves banging your knee against the wall for hours and hours), cutting linoleum (which I found if you cut it in the same way as carpet it turns out to be upside down). I learned how to network; how to talk to the manager and make her like you ---- her daughter is how I learned how to lay carpet! And I learned to be a quick judge of character. If a car looked trashed on the inside, that’s what my mobile home was going to look like. If the lady lied about her husband to the manager but just assumed i was showing my dad’s property so she told me the “secret” she wasn’t to be trusted. And I learned how people live when if they were to go to work they would make less money than if they applied for a fafsa. They sat at home and watched TV or set up the garden of skulls in their front yard and polished their guns. And I met the young mother with two children who she didn’t know who their biological father was. I learned to do small things to serve these people like mowing the mother’s lawn after I had mowed my mobile home’s lawn.
When I babysat, it wasn’t about the money; many a time I returned a check to a family who was having a hard financial time or who had gone to the temple for the whole Saturday.
From these experiences I see my love of entrepreneurship and of service but service has never been as it is for me now.
Following the prompting of the spirit:
I was told to go to the temple and do an endowment session but that wasn’t smart for me today! I have tests and papers and photography and painting projects due every day next week --- and they’re hard ones! We drove all the way to the library until i suggested that we turn around and go get our things for an endowment session. I felt so so strongly prompted to go!
Well the ironic thing was that while in the session though I was so determined to get answers and vision for my life, I really did fall asleep for a second! I had such a hard time staying awake; more than ever before. But I did have promptings and that was that I’m doing a little too much service and devoting a little too much time to serving others; I have to remain healthy and that involves going to the gym so I don’t get blood clots. It was a warning to me. Also, I had the feeling that I needed to listed to Dan as he listens to the counsel of the Lord and uphold his goals and assist him (I thought of Emma Smith). And then Dan will guide me to what I should do and I will be able to figure out where we’ll be and what to do about schooling. I have been promised that I would know the answer to whether I should go to law school and where I should go for law school. And that was about the extent of my deep thoughts: exercise, do less serving for now, that motherhood and missionary work are the ultimate purpose of my existence but that I am also supposed to do other service, and take counsel from Dan.
But funny enough Dan felt the most awake he’d ever been. He gained his vision! He knows what we should do, what his financial/professional goals are and what we are to do in the church and how all of that fits with his patriarchal blessing. All the time I get in these moods where something consumes me; where all I can think about, talk about etc. is that one thing. And Dan’s like that right now! I love seeing it in him! I tried to tell him a few of my impressions and he usually listens and waits and then gives a couple comments --- but tonight he couldn’t wait for me to finish my sentence to give his thoughts and feelings! I loved having it turned around and listening to his ideas!
Again, back to what David said to Dan and I last night. It made me want to know the Lord’s call on my life and I came up with a few things I wanted to do. I thought about being the change we wish to see in the world. One of the ideas is that all people need help no matter their socio-economic status.
Some of my thoughts from last night:
MOTIVES! I am going to be reading a book called Works of Love by the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard and it’s about one’s motive in doing good/serving/loving. I know I’ll find answers there!
Also, the change that needs to be in the world is that everyday people can dedicate their time talents etc. to serving others. Everyone has something to give and it most certainly may not be money! Someone is a lawyer, a dentist, an artist etc. and people need those services so that the governmet doesn’t have to do it. If someone were handing you money face to face and you knew it was theirs you would be so much more accountable! It is the idea of the tribes who go up and do their vision quest (which is what these last few days has been for me). These Indians go up to this circle of rocks on a hill and straight in front of these rocks is the North Star (“the nail”). They pray and fast for a long time, all the while praying for their people. Until they have a vision; until they know what they are to do in their life to benefit them. Also, these people don’t have an idea of the “self” and the “other”; these two are bounded meaning that when one does something for themselves, the are also benefiting their community.
I would love to see people use their talents to help others -- that is truly the Zion that we are striving for. And why can’t it happen?
I want to study Mother Theresa. How does she help people find God’s call on their life? One young woman came to her and Mother Theresa wanted to make sure this was God’s call on the girl’s life to become sort of a nun who helped the dying. As this girl helped the man who smelled of rotting, decaying flesh and would dye in the next day the girl was able to clean his wounds because she prayed and was able to see that man as if he were Christ. That was His call on her life. This is consecration to give your time and talents to the Lord!
In getting this message out to others, it will require not seeking for world-historical importance (see Kierkegaard’s philosophies on world-historical importance for an interesting discussion).
I realized the impact of traveling and spreading these ideas to Russia---helping the people gain a vision for their lives and helping them to serve others though it doesn’t benefit them. I have seen that the church changes these people so they do just that but without the gospel there are few who go out of their way to help you. I love the quote from President Kimball “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take the people out of the slums, Christ would take the slums out of the people.”
Another call on my life is to move people through artwork: photography or art. I have this vision of painting or photographing people being healed in some way; of people consecrating their lives to the Lord.
I love how for Daniel and I the Lord gives “sudden strokes of inspiration”!
I am wondering for the first time about some things from my patriarchal blessing; does the Lord even need me to obtain a degree? I knew the idea that “things would be different in the Lord’s time and way” but that His will would be made known unto me would come...but this is a hard one! What am I to do? How am I to serve? I just keep remembering "we must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
I think that I may not even ever need a degree? Dan has promises about his financial security and I wonder if the Lord can work through me more effectively if I don’t busy myself with school for a few years?
I have been not so enthusiastic about “the mission of Relief Society” and the worldwide sisterhood but that is exactly what I’m seeing that the world needs! it needs someone to lift the feeble hand! I love the message of President Monson’s opening remarks from Conference when his younger brother passed away and they received a blanket for him to be buried in. After our Make A Wish training today I realized that I could go deliver a wish as a Disney princess and it would be marvelous to have someone to sew that for me! Every single person is needed!
I have had a strong feeling that as I understand the symbolism of the temple and work with my photography professor I will be able to gain the vision of what I am to do.
Also, I have this idea that understanding the Russian Orthodox church will be helpful; that was why I was supposed to take my religion in the home class. We learned that Russian Orthodox people believe that they are married for eternity because they are married by God not the pastor and that all that god does is eternal. Also, the RO people believe that we humans can become as God. Also, they have condensed the whole baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, initiatory process (really everything about it), endowment, and portions of the marriage and sealing all into their baby blessing! I could not believe how much they believe that we also believe! This will be so important for Dan and I to have the understanding of their beliefs because if they know what their religion actually believes then they’ll be so close to the gospel.
I also understand now why we are not considered Christian. We do not believe in the nicene creed as other churches who recite it weekly do.
I now understand the origins of the trinity: that there were pagan and Greek gods who were the polytheistic Gods and as the Christians did not want to believe in those Gods, they only allowed for one God. They brought so many religious leaders together and all had to come up with a statement that told about their god. Because there were entire doctrinal systems built on different ideas such as Christ as “Light of Light” that phrase is included. They believe in a self-existent God and the creed claims that Christ is the only begotten of the Father and yet begotten by the “breath of heaven” which is the Holy Spirit. Of course they would be confused on who God is because this creed itself has so may contradictions! We had a Catholic young man come explain to us that he also believe in eternal marriage and that this is what the Catholics teach! He said they believe they will be married to Christ. Literally. There will be no husband-wife relations but they will be much more fulfilled in Christ (he gave the example of seeing the beach in Florida but how that’s not the actualization of being there-- and that’s how marriage is for us in this life). Also, I understand why the Catholics and Orthodox Christians cross themselves and why they each do the left or right shoulder first. Touching your right shoulder and then left symbolizes the separation of the sheep and goats: and you want to do the right side first. As the priests mirrored the congregation in 4th - 5th century the people began going the same way as the priest did. I also realized how incredibly hard it would be to convert to the LDS church after having been so involved in one’s own religion. The devout Catholic Gail King who came and spoke to us had so many statues of Mary and prayer beads and traditions for every season that it would be incredibly hard to tell her to take everything out and to take down the pictures of Mary on her fridge and for her not to cross herself every time an ambulence went by. I loved two stories she told: first, she made a huge huge string of prayer beads (like 2.5 ft) for when she was nursing. the beads were worn from being rubbed so much; she prayed the whole time she nursed her sons (and she nursed each one until he was 2.5 years old!). And I love her story about the disappearing beans. They have a tradition about how one who gets the bean has luck for the whole year (it’s found in a cake on one of their saint days). She put a food-storage type dried bean in each piece of the cake and it disappeared!
In conclusion, I want to say that the blind young man who I helped cannot be helped by make a wish. But he should be helped by someone. And aren’t we all poor? Less than 20% of the disabilities on campus are physical. And how many people are poor in spirit? How can we lift the hearts of those who are sad or depressed or who are just weary? I thought of Daniel’s (now my :)) grandmother who has severe depression --- what could I do to spend time lifting her heart? I think I may have discovered some part of my vision and the Lord’s call for my life --- it may be in touching people one by one.
I loved wish granting training today; it was incredibly touching!
I realized that I had one of my wishes granted! I had a wish to share a love of art with wish kids; to teach them to create. And I wanted volunteers to teach the children because it is therapy for them; therapy for those who have some deeper trial that is not apparent on the outside. And I got my wish!
I loved hearing about the wish child who inspired it all: Chris Greicius who wanted to be a police officer and how the whole community united to help him ride in a helicopter and motorcycle to some sheriff’s office where an important officer had a ceremony and made him a police officer and bestowed an honorary medal on him; they brought out a police uniform that would fit him. And the next day he had gone into a coma but he opened his eyes to see his “angel wings” symbol and then passed on. he was so happy! And similarly these children are being made so happy during these hard times! I can’t wait to help a child hang their stained glass star in the wish room and to throw their wish token into the wishing well and to go up into the beautiful room in the tower where there is water running under their feet and everything is lit up in their favorite color and how they write their three wishes on a slip of paper and put that into the hat and then the colors of the room change etc. I can’t believe I get to actually make a child’s wish come true! What a fun creative challenge!
I hope people realize how important it is to be creative in some way---in their own way. As President Uchtdorf said, The Work of Creation
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.
Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.
Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty—and I am not talking about the process of cleaning the rooms of your teenage children.
You might say, “I’m not the creative type. When I sing, I’m always half a tone above or below the note. I cannot draw a line without a ruler. And the only practical use for my homemade bread is as a paperweight or as a doorstop.”
If that is how you feel, think again, and remember that you are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe. Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.
But to what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy.4 Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things.
If you are a mother, you participate with God in His work of creation—not only by providing physical bodies for your children but also by teaching and nurturing them. If you are not a mother now, the creative talents you develop will prepare you for that day, in this life or the next.
You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us.5 The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.
What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.
If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it.
Nearly a century and a half ago, President Brigham Young spoke to the Saints of his day. “There is a great work for the Saints to do,” he said. “Progress, and improve upon and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth, and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations. In the mean time continually seek to adorn your minds with all the graces of the Spirit of Christ.”6
The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit. As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.
Being compassionate is another great work of our Heavenly Father and a fundamental characteristic of who we are as a people. We are commanded to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”7 Disciples of Christ throughout all ages of the world have been distinguished by their compassion. Those who follow the Savior “mourn with those that mourn . . . and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”8
When we reach out to bless the lives of others, our lives are blessed as well. Service and sacrifice open the windows of heaven, allowing choice blessings to descend upon us. Surely our beloved Heavenly Father smiles upon those who care for the least of His children.
As we lift others, we rise a little higher ourselves. President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “The more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls.”9
President Gordon B. Hinckley believed in the healing power of service. After the death of his wife, he provided a great example to the Church in the way he immersed himself in work and in serving others. It is told that President Hinckley remarked to one woman who had recently lost her husband, “Work will cure your grief. Serve others.”
These are profound words. As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.
President Lorenzo Snow expressed a similar thought: “When you find yourselves a little gloomy, look around you and find somebody that is in a worse plight than yourself; go to him and find out what the trouble is, then try to remove it with the wisdom which the Lord bestows upon you; and the first thing you know, your gloom is gone, you feel light, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you, and everything seems illuminated.”10
In today’s world of pop psychology, junk TV, and feel-good self-help manuals, this advice may seem counterintuitive. We are sometimes told that the answer to our ills is to look inward, to indulge ourselves, to spend first and pay later, and to satisfy our own desires even at the expense of those around us. While there are times when it is prudent to look first to our own needs, in the long run it doesn’t lead to lasting happiness.
An Instrument in the Hands of the Lord
I believe that the women of the Church, regardless of age or family status, understand and apply best the words of James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan: “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”11 Often I have witnessed quiet acts of kindness and compassion by noble women who extended themselves in unselfish charity. My heart swells when I hear stories of the sisters of the Church and how they rush to the aid of those in need.
There are those in the Church—both men and women—who wonder how they can contribute to the kingdom. Sometimes women who are single, divorced, or widowed wonder if there is a place for them. Every sister in the Church is of critical importance—not only to our Heavenly Father but also to the building of the kingdom of God as well. There is a great work to do.
One year ago in this meeting, President Monson taught that “you are . . . surrounded by opportunities for service. . . . Often small acts of service are all that is required to lift and bless another.”12 Look around you. There at sacrament meeting is a young mother with several children—offer to sit with her and help. There in your neighborhood is a young man who seems discouraged—tell him you enjoy being in his presence, that you feel his goodness. True words of encouragement require only a loving and caring heart but may have an eternal impact on the life of those around you.
You wonderful sisters render compassionate service to others for reasons that supersede desires for personal benefits. In this you emulate the Savior, who, though a king, did not seek position, nor was He concerned about whether others noticed Him. He did not bother to compete with others. His thoughts were always tuned to help others. He taught, healed, conversed, and listened to others. He knew that greatness had little to do with outward signs of prosperity or position. He taught and lived by this doctrine: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”13
In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance. Let us open our eyes and see the heavy hearts, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers.”