Friday, May 22, 2009

The Continuous Atonement The Continuous Atonement by Brad Wilcox

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
In The Countinuous Atonement, Brad Wilcox helps readers to view Christ's atonement for our sins from a different perspective. I've always thought of Jesus's sacrifice as a one-time event with eternal blessings, but now I see it as an ongoing relationship with my Savior. I especially liked Wilcox's message on grace and works: We don't do good works to earn the Lord's grace; our works are merely a natural extension if we accept His grace and allow it to change us. For someone who feels inadequate every day, The Continuous Atonement was an encouraging and inspiring read.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Meltdown on Aisle Three

I was out shopping today when I remembered I needed to pick up some thank you cards. As I was trying to decide between notes with too-cutesy pink daisies or sickeningly adorable kittens, the Father's Day cards caught my eye.

"Wonderful!" I thought. I usually scramble out for a card at the last minute, but why not be ahead of the game for a change? Heck, it's not even June yet! Before my fingers even touched the cardstock, though, I realized something.

I have one less Father's Day card to buy this year.

As my throat tightened and my eyes threatened to spring a leak, I willed myself to hold it together. I only made it as far as the Dry Erase markers one aisle over. I fumbled around for a tissue in my purse and tried to concoct an explanation for my breakdown. Thank goodness it was a quiet afternoon in office supplies because telling someone I was distraught over not being able to find a turquoise Sharpie would have probably seemed stranger than the original crying jag.

This year, the boys are going shopping for Father's Day cards on their own.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Study by Immersion: Not Just for Languages

For those of you who don't know yet, I'm going to Guadalajara, Mexico for a month to study Spanish as part of UALR's study abroad program. I leave July 8, and I'm both excited and nervous. I've never traveled outside the United States before. (I haven't traveled within the United States much either, for that matter.) I'm not nervous about the swine flu or drug cartel violence. What actually frightens me most is talking to native speakers. What if I can't understand them as they rattle off español at lightning speed? What if they can't understand me as I fumble for words and phrases stored in the second-language section of my brain? I'm a communicator by nature, so not being able to communicate is scarier than a global pandemic in my book.

To improve my Spanish skills before I go, I've been studying SpanishPod. They have podcasts ranging from Newbie to Advanced levels. I enjoy listening to the Newbie and Elementary levels because even though I don't learn new grammar or vocabulary, I do learn new phrases and culture. I'm most at home with the Intermediate lessons, and I can understand the Advanced lessons if I look at the accompanying transcript as I listen.

Today, I was listening to SpanishPod while I cleaned house, and an Advanced lesson came up in the queue. I instantly hit pause, longing for the transcript crutch to guide me through the fast speaking and unfamiliar vocabulary. Then I realized that when I'm in Guadalajara, nobody will offer me a PDF transcript of our conversations; I will have to dive in and soak up the Spanish without  any study aids. I hit play and listened.

I couldn't understand exactly what was being said, which made me a little uncomfortable, but I was at least getting a feel for the cadence and pronunciation of Spanish at full speed. Whenever I actually grasped what was being said, I rejoiced and felt hopeful that I could eventually understand more. By immersing myself in the language, I will gradually grow more comfortable and more capable.

Isn't the gospel a little like that? When we first decide to change our lives and draw closer to the Lord, we are in unfamiliar territory. We cling to the first steps of faith and repentance. We renew our baptismal covenants each week as we partake of the sacrament. We study our Sunday school lessons and follow the scripture chains outlined in our study guides. These steps are all wonderful and essential, but the next step, making that leap from being saved by grace to being changed by grace, is a little scary.

How do we do it? Well, we study by immersion. After all, isn't our time here on earth like a spiritual study abroad program? We surround ourselves with people of faith who can testify of the Lord's amazing power in their own lives. More importantly, we fumble around for our own elementary level faith and dive right in, soaking up the blessings the Lord offers us. As we practice living by new standards and promises, we grow more confident in our own abilities to learn and grow. Best of all, we gain our own testimonies of the Savior's redeeming love.

Just like learning a language, we will all stumble now and then. One of my Spanish teachers once asked for jugo de araña instead of jugo de naranja at a restaurant in Mexico. Luckily, the waiter realized she didn't really want spider juice, but orange juice. Likewise, the Lord understands our hearts and will gently guide us as we learn. Thank goodness, because I need a lot more study before I'll be fluent in the gospel.

Monday, May 11, 2009

To-Do List

I know that the weathermen (Was that sexist? Let's go with meteorologists...) don't think summer begins until June 21, but as far as I'm concerned, summer began Saturday night around 11 o'clock when I finished up the last of my school assignments. I can't wait to get started on my list:

1. Paint the dining room red.

2. Remove the mid-90's style wallpaper border from the living room, and paint that room any color that will coordinate with the blissfully red dining room.

3. Remove the painted-over wallpaper (horrors!) in the kitchen and paint it whatever color will make the cabinets and countertops I can't afford to replace yet look a little less left-over-from-1983.

4. Between coats of paint, read some of the 183 books patiently waiting on my GoodReads list.

5. Knit something. Anything. I really miss knitting.

6. Study Spanish (probably through SpanishPod) at least 30 minutes every day to get ready for my trip to Mexico. I reserve the right to watch telenovelas for a half-hour and call that studying.

7. Build custom bookshelves for the living room.

8. Put in a garden bed. I know it's too late to plant much this year, but I would be content to grow a little spinach and lettuce and maybe some cilantro. At least then the garden bed would be there for next year.

9. Blog more than I have been. Since I haven't blogged for over 8 months, blogging quarterly would be a huge improvement.

10. Become the woman my patriarchal blessing says I can be. This actually inspires another, much longer, to-do list. If I could sum up my blessing in a nutshell, though, it basically says, "Read your scriptures EVERY day, and be nice!" I think I'll just start there.