10 Women I Met On My Mission Who Have Changed My Life

There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman. …[A]ll women have within their divine nature both the inherent talent and the stewardship to mother…. Elder M. Russell Ballard, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

There were several women I met on my mission who have influenced me for good. I actually had about 15 but I figured that could get a little long so I narrowed it down to 10 and wrote a paragraph next to each woman stating what I learned from them and why they changed my life.

Shirley Davis: All over her house are lighthouses, which is a perfect symbol and metaphor for the role she has played in the lives of others. She is a beacon and a light to those who are lost and need to get back on track.  Shirley was a social worker and has had several foster children over the years. She is full of unconditional love and renders service  to all she sees in need…no questions asked.  She also has an unbelievable sense of hope for those individuals others would see as lost. She can see their potential as children of God, helps them figure out what they want in life and is a supportive cheerleader as they work to pull themselves out of bad habits and situations.   Shirley is a strong woman and lets people know what she expects of them and shows full confidence that they can live up to it. When it comes to her response to negative behavior, she lives the teaching of the Savior in Doctrine & Covenants 121:43 “”Reproving betimes with sharpness…. and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love.”  Her family, friends and those she has helped over the years know how much she loves them.  I certainly have felt this whenever I have seen her. This woman has been a lighthouse in my life as an example of Christlike love.    The Savior spent His time on earth with the beggars and the publicans even though others thought he was crazy for mingling with the “unclean”. Shirley has made a deep impression on me that I will never forget.  She has taught me the importance of lifting the hands that hang down (Heb. 12:12) and has caused me to ask myself, yet again, “Are we not all beggars?” (Mosiah 4:19).  

Sandi Graham: I met this dear woman when I was serving as a missionary in Newark, New York. She is a wonderful cook and has a heart of gold.   I have had many conversations with her and have seen her love of Jesus Christ and His Gospel shine through everytime. Sandie has an unbelievable amount of trust in God. Even when things in her life have been difficult, she finds a way to recognize that God will take care of her and everything will work out right in the end. She works with the young women in the local congregation and encourages them to be strong and unified in their standands and faith. These girls look up to her as a woman of God. She has such a spunky personality and can see and feel the joy in gospel living .  Sandie shares her love of Christ with her friends and family members simply because it means so much to her. She is very independent and strong with a sassy sense of humor. She also has a gift for teaching and can explain even complicated gospel concepts in a clear way.  Its the small things she does, like the unseen support and a listening ear that make such a difference in others lives.  She eminates energy and love.  Plus, everytime I see her I always get a huge hug and a gorgeous smile. 🙂 Who wouldn’t love that? Love you Sandie!

Lynnette Morrison: There is so much I could say about the Morrisons! Sister Morrison would do anything for her family and children.  She has seen her family struggle in different ways over the years and has consistently been a source of encouragement and love to help them through life’s trials. She pushes forward even when things aren’t perfect and has faith that if she does what God asks, He will help her family and friends.  She has such a soft heart and her kids genuinely love being in their home. She creates an environment where other friends want to come and spend time together: a house full of sassy sarcasm, love and food.  It’s no wonder that missionaries love to visit and share messages with their family. The first time I met them I felt instantly at home and their efforts to have a happy home didn’t go unnoticed. Lynnette has an undying hope in her children and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  She is a pillar of strength just like her own mother.  She recently sent off her oldest son on a mission to India. What a proud mama she must be!

Heidi Egan: Although I didn’t get a chance to know Heidi very well I think about her sweet family often. This picture is one that I took one day when 3 other sister missionaries and I went to their home for dinner. The kids were out back sitting on the grass singing together and playing the guitar. They have such a fun family. Their children are well-behaved, respectful, helpful and bubbly. I’m sure Heidi would say they have their moments…but don’t we all. 😉 One of the things I really admired about her was how she interacted with her children. She got excited about things they were excited about.  They live the 13th article of faith and seek after uplifting forms of entertainment which is difficult to do in the world today.  I just loved this family and certainly felt the spirit in their home. A few months after I moved to a new area, their house burnt down.  They were safe but weren’t left with much physically except a few things that were preserved like food storage…What does that tell you? Get your food storage together and spread it throughout your house.  😉   I have asked other missionaries serving in the area how their family is doing.  They all have said that they  seem to be doing amazing and an outsider wouldn’t even be able to tell that they had been through such a difficult trial.  That is real faith in God. 

Lauri Grier: One thing I know about Sister Grier is that she doesn’t exactly enjoy being in the limelight, so the fact that I am writing something like this about her is probably not something she is too excited about but she has made an impression on me in the 2 times I served as a missionary in the town of Palmyra…so too bad Sister Grier. 😉 Lauri is very selfless and often thinks of what she can do for others before herself.  She has one beautiful daughter at home named Emily who is a very talented musician and sings in the Bach Children’s Chorus in Rochester, New York. Mom has been very supportive over the years and enjoys watching Emily perform and sing wherever she goes.  She works with the young women in the Palmyra ward and has practically adopted some of them as her own with her love, support and concern for them. I have been to their home a few times for meals and to share a spiritual message or thought.  I have been impressed everytime with the spirit in their home. Lauri met her husband later in life and you can just feel the love when you go to visit.  Her priorities and dedication to God in her daily life are evident even in the pictures of Christ and the temple throughout her home.  Sister Grier has a funny sense of humor and puts people at ease with her genuine interest in their lives.  She has made an impression on me with her wonderful example of quietly and steadfastly living the gospel.

Emily Bylund: Best Cook Ever! My companion, Sister Carter, and I loved going to their house for dinner. Sister Bylund always had some unique meal planned. We had fantastic soups, eggplant bites and of course it was all healthy. She has 2 little girls who love her dearly. She served as Relief Society President when I was there, which means that you are responsible for the spiritual welfare of the women in the congregation where you attend. It is a huge role to fill especially living near the city of Rochester where there is often a lot of need physically and emotionally. She does all this while raising 2 daughters. She really magnifies her role as a mother and I have seen her teach her girls new things about life and God while sitting at the dinner table. I truly admire her dedication and strength in difficult and stressful times. If you want to make some of the amazing things I tasted at her house, check out her blog at:  http://bakingwithbigred.blogspot.com/   

Paige Porter: If you haven’t met the Porter family you are truly missing out. These kids are bright with tons of personality. Possibly one of my favorite times in church while living in Rochester was when one of her sweet children would stand at the pulpit and give us all some good advice about life including some type of metaphor to really drive the point home. I remember thinking, “Wow. Their mother must really make it a priority to teach them about the gospel in the home.” Once I got to know Sister Porter I realized that her dedication to God is her number one priority.  She has five beautiful children, two of which were adopted and sealed to their family in a Holy Temple of God. This is a place where families are bound together for time and eternity.  Paige knows the gospel and has been teaching it for years, no doubt starting long before her mission in Korea.  One of the other things that has impressed me about Sister Porter is that she takes time to listen to people. She doesn’t rush out of a conversation. You can tell she genuinely cares about you and what you are saying. She is soft spoken and is very respectful of her children which explains why they respect her so much. She is a very bright woman and has had several opportunities to work outside the home but has chosen to dedicate her time to raising her family. She recognizes how fortunate she is to be able to do so. That doesn’t mean she isn’t involved in the community, however. Paige worked and help with the Habitat for Humanity project in Rochester, New York as well as church callings and other assignments over the years that have kept her busy as a bee. I believe that a woman of God can have a substantial influence in her community and in her home.  Paige Porter is the epitomy of this.    

Allison Welch: I don’t know if I have ever met a stronger woman than Ally. She is 21 and was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a little less than a year ago.  She was raised inRochester, New York and has been through some extremely difficult things in her life, so it was no doubt – a transition – into the “mormon lifestyle.” Ally is my hero.  She has a beautiful little 4 year old named Naomi who is her entire world. Allison’s faith has pulled her through so many things when it seemed like there was no way out.  She loves the missionaries and is such an amazing missionary herself. She shares with everyone her story of how God lifted her up and changed her to become the amazing woman she is today. She has a way with people and can connect with anyone. There is such a genuine reality to her testimony that eminates from her spirit. I remember when I first met Ally and the her tough exterior convinced me that I may never connect with this girl…which is of course what she thought about Sister Carter and I with our preppy outfits and missionary nametags. But today I can honestly say Ally is one of my best friends. She is braver than anyone I know and refuses to give up even when the world tells her that its too hard to make a real change. I love you girl!

Sandy Harris: It was only a few weeks away from Christmas 2010 when I met Sandy Harris. My missionary companion and I were volunteering at the  local “Cookie Walk”. People in Penn Yan and the surrounding areas donate cookies to raise money for the Keuka Comfort Care (a place that provides free, compassionate end of life care in a homelike setting to terminally ill residents of Yates County and surrounding communities). Then, people come, fill a box with cookies, weigh them and pay. Sandy and I were weighing the cookies together. Her upbeat attitude and sense of humor is just contagious. She is honestly the most welcoming woman I have ever met. She invited us up to visit any time so one day we stopped in. She fed us, we talked and she invited us back for Bible study.  Sandy is constantly looking outside herself to see how she can make others feel at ease and loved. She and her husband Ron are used to entertaining visitors on a regular basis and always help people to feel right at home. She loves her family and it is evident by the array of photographs throughout the house. I have admired her gift of charity from day one. I hope to one day develop some of those traits that have blessed the people of Penn Yan and all those she comes in contact with.

Maria Gray: (also known as “The Card Lady”) We met Maria in Penn Yan, New York at a community dinner she was helping with for people in the area who want a good meal, in a safe place, for free. She is so incredibly giving and does everything she can to help lift others and make them feel important. She was doing that constantly for my companion Sister Maughan and me. She is open minded and will ask questions about things she is genuinely curious about. One of the things I really admire about her is her hobby of collecting cards. She buys them whenever she gets the chance (mostly blank cards) and sends them to random people when she feels prompted. You never know when you are going to get a nice card out of the blue from Maria. Sister Maughan and I were visiting someone one day and looked over at her table and there sat one of Maria’s famous cards. She is very in tune with the Spirit and can sense the needs of others. Her faith in God and Jesus Christ is what grounds her. I love this woman! 🙂


O Remember, Remember

Isn’t it annoying when you are about to walk out to your car to drive somewhere and for some reason you just can’t remember where you put your keys? What about when you see an old acquaintance and you can’t, even with all your brain power in action, remember what their name is?

Forgetting is an awful thing. It is super inconvenient and causes a lot of awkward situations. Like forgetting an appointment you made with someone or forgetting your homework assignment that is due today.

So when do we forget the Lord most? When we are content. We forget how much we really need Him.  As a missionary, I talk to people all the time and ask them if they pray and many of them say: “Yeah. I pray. It’s usually when I’m having a really hard time and I need help.”  

So how can we remember God even when life is good?

Gratitude! When you give someone something and they show that they are truly thankful for what they have received, it makes you want to give more.  Also, when we are grateful it will make us happier. I am convinced that gratitude is a major key to happiness. 

Another way we can remember Him is daily prayer. It is so important that we take time during the day to pray and to meditate.  God has a plan for us and we need take time to find out what that is. http://reachesmyreaching.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/are-you-listening/

There are many other ways we can remember Him. For example, we can attend church, do service for others and study the scriptures daily.

As I near the end of my 18 months as a missionary, I have been reflecting a lot on things I have seen. Miracles. Heartache. Joy.  I don’t want to forget the way I have felt, the people I have met and the change of heart I have experienced. Talking about his experiences with Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery said “These were days never to be forgotten” (JSH 1:75*). That is the way I feel.

In the Book of Mormon, a prophet named King Benjamin tells us what we should remember. He says: 

 “And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have atasted of his love, and have received a bremission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own cnothingness, and his dgoodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of ehumility, fcalling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing gsteadfastly in the faith of that which is to come…” (Mosiah 4:11 ).

Don’t forget the wonderful memories you have had. Don’t forget the greatness of God. Don’t forget your blessings and how much God loves you.

Lessons learned from the “younger me”

This is a post from almost 3 years ago. I was in college and struggling. I posted this on the blog I had at the time. I think its time I bring it back. This is a picture of me at that time of my life(2008).  So here it is:
               “I think it’s amazing that one day we can be completely distracted by worldly things and what the world tells us we should want. Then the next day the Lord gives us a little wake up call…back to reality and reminds us of all that He wants us to do, for others, for Him, and for ourselves so that we can become closer to Him. That is the way I have felt the last few days.
                The Lord has given me some reminders that He is still there always helping me even if it seems like my life is going fine and I “dont need Him”. It’s amazing that when we are blessed the most we forget that the origin of those blessings is God. I have had such an enlightening week…I can’t explain it. I just feel as though I am on my way to gaining a much stronger relationship with the Savior than I ever have in my life. I had some realizations that brought me to these thoughts.
               I realized that growing up in the Church we often focus on the evil in the world and how to avoid it. “Stay away from the EVIL. There is so much out there.” While that is completely true…I think it’s much more encouraging to emphasize instead, how much good and beauty there is in the world. We should inspire others to seek it out. There are so many uplifting things in the world that no one in the world could possibly every see/read/listen to it all in one lifetime.
              The 13th article of faith (http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1?lang=eng) really hit home for me after I realized this concept. “…If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy, we SEEK after these things.”
              It is true that these enriching and inspiring things may not always be right in front of us like the evil of the media and the world, but if we SEEK after those things that are good and true, the darkness of the world around us will be blinded by the light.
               All we do, everything, is to recieve his spirit, to feel closer to Him, that is the ultimate goal, isn’t it? “That which is of God is alight; and he that breceiveth clight, and dcontinueth in God, receiveth more elight; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:24) That was President Gordon B. Hinckley’s favorite scripture and I can understand why.
Tonight (July 7, 2008)  as a family we were singing around the piano. One song we sang was totally unplanned but still very touching and beautiful. It was really an awesome experience as we sang this song. Here are the lyrics. At first Chandler, Carli, Summer and I sang it and then my parents and Colton joined in when my grandparents made us sing it again. I think you can understand why it was so touching. It seemed to go perfectly with what I had been thinking about. ” (July 7, 2008 blog post)

Keepers of His Light

We were saved for these final days
and He has blessed us with the faith
to follow Him, and remember Him
in a world thats gone astray
To rise above the darkness thats around us
that we might have His holy light surround us


We will stand strong in the presence of our God,
letting virtue garnish every thought.
We will hold on always steadfast in his ways
faithful to the promise we have made.
By the way we live our lives,
we are the keepers of His light.


We believe we’re children of a king,
and we will honor him faithfully.
We will lift our minds.
We will choose the light,
living lives of purity.
We can feel his mighty power inside us
we know He is reaching out to guide us
We will stand strong in the presence of our God,
letting virtue garnish every thought.
We will hold on always steadfast in his ways
faithful to the promise we have made.
By the way we live our lives,
we are the keepers of His light.

A story that has changed my life…

Age 15, in my little bedroom sitting on my bed with the yellow bedspread, I read this story for the first time. I have read it many times since and it truly has changed my life:

“In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no features except for one wall covered by small index card files. These files stretched from floor to ceiling and went endlessly in both directions. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read, “Boys I Have Liked”. I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names on each one. I then realized where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system of my life. Here  were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in every detail. A sense of wonder and curiosity mixed with horror stirred within me as I began opening files and looking at their contents. Some brought joy and sweet memories, others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named, “Friends” was next to the one marked, “Friends I Have Betrayed”. The titles ranged from the mundane to the weird. “Books I Have Read”, “Lies I Have Told”, “Comfort I Have Given”, “Jokes I Have Laughed At”, “People I Have Hurt”. Some were almost funny in their exactness. “Things I Have Done In Anger”, “Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath At My Parents”. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I had hoped. I was overwhelmed by the volume of life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my young life to write each of these thousands of millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth, each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked, “Songs I Have Listened To,” I realized the files grew to contain the contents. Th cards were packed tightly, yet after two or three yards I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much of the quality of the music, but more by the amount of time I knew it represented. When I came to a file marked, “Lustful Thoughts”, I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out inch by inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at the details. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. A rage broke through me. “No one must see these cards. No one must ever see this room. I have to destroy them.” In a frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty and burn the cards. I took it out and pounded it on the floor. Not a single card would come out. I desperately pulled out a card and tried to rip it, but it was as strong as steel.

Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a sigh, then I saw it. The title “People I Have Shared The Gospel [My Faith] With”. The handles were brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to cry. Sobbing so deep it hurt my stomach. I fell on my knees and cried out in shame. The rows of shelves whirled around me. No one must ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please, not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus! I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. In the moments that I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to go to the worst boxes.

Why did he have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this wasn’t pity that angered me. I dropped my head and began to cry again. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me. Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, took out a card and one by one He began to  sign His name over mine. “NO!” I shouted, rushing at Him. All I could find to say was, “NO, NO”, as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on those cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name JESUS covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the cards back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign all the cards. I do not think I will ever understand how He did it so quickly. But the next instance it seemed, I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished”. I stood up and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on the door. There are still cards to be written.”

    The lyrics to this hymn describe perfectly what I feel:
    “I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me
    Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me
    I tremble to know that for me he was crucified
    That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died
    Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me
    Oh, it is wonderful
    Wonderful to me”   (Hymn 193)

    “I stand all amazed that even for a man like me, full of egotism and transgression and intolerance and impatience, there is a chance. But if I’ve heard the “good news” correctly there is a chance—for me and for you and for everyone who is willing to keep hoping and to keep trying and to allow others the same privilege.”                      – Jeffery R. Holland

Find yourself.

I have found the way to be happy! Seriously. Its not easy but it definitely works. Forget about yourself and help others. One of my favorite quotes is from Spencer W. Kimball.

 “When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves!”

Its amazing how miserable we can become when we focus on all of the hard things in our own lives. This picture is of my friend Maci Gayaldo. She took a trip to Lira, Uganda in Africa with the non-profit Christian organization “Children of the Nations”. She lived in a village with absolutely NO electricity for 2 1/2 months. It would have been so easy to focus on the hard things she was experiencing and complain about the luxuries she was missing at home but she was able to forget about herself and help others.

In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves! [See Matthew 10:39.]

Not only do we “find” ourselves in terms of God’s hand in our lives, but the more we serve our others in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!

If we seek true happiness, we must expend our energies for purposes larger than our own self-interests. Think about how you can help the people around you even in the small ways.

Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.  It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe.  It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.  ~Michael Strassfeld

Come out of the darkest abyss into the LIGHT

“A place I never thought I’d be able to crawl out of” “A dark hole that would never end” “I didn’t know who I was or where I was going” “I was doing things that made me feel disgusted with myself” “I haven’t prayed for years” “There is something else and I want to know” “What am I really searching for?” “It was something I had been looking for and I could never find it.” “I had done everything in the world man had to offer, and none of it was real”

Can you relate to these feelings? Like you are in a dark abyss? Anything that appears to be endless or immeasurably deep, such as time, despair, or shame….There is a way out of it.

Matthew 11:28-30

aCome unto me, all ye that blabour and are heavy laden, and I will give you crest.

 29Take my ayoke upon you, and blearn of me; for I am cmeek and dlowly in eheart: and ye shall find frest unto your souls.

 30For my yoke is aeasy, and my burden is light.

Who are you?

Sometimes I think we forget who we are. Not the kind of amnesia you get when you don’t know your own name but we forget our divine nature, where we came from. I have wonderful legacy that has been left for me by my ancestors. I probably have a king in there somewhere…that is probably quite a few generations back though. But, think about the geneology of your spirit. One generation back and you’re the child of a king!

Romans 8:16-17

16The Spirit itself beareth awitness with our bspirit, that we are the cchildren of God:

 17And if children, then heirs; aheirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we bsuffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.