Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Finally 19

“It’s my birthday and I’m going to party like it’s my birthday.”

That ladies and gentlemen is the song that rang through my head when I woke up this morning at an eerie hour of 6:00am. Yuck! But being 19 means you go to work on your birthday.

19. The new age that holds so much meaning for LDS girls all around the world. I use to think the only difference between 18 and 19 was that I was a teenager for one more year. Nothing special really happens when you’re 19…that is unless you are a Mormon girl who wishes to go on a mission. Lucky me! 19 now has meaning that has changed my life course quite a bit.

Now this change in mission age did not make me wake up with the song “Scripture Power, keeps me safe from sin” running through my head. No, I am still a normal girl who loves her music with a heavy beat when it comes to “breakin’ it down” on her birthday. While I am still the same, my birthday presents this year are a little different. No new spring shorts and sandals for presents, rather my parents got me a gift card to start buying sister missionary clothing. YAY!

But really, I am so excited to start shopping for clothes to wear on my mission. Just last night my roommate gave her parents (who were on Skype) and me a fashion show of all her new mission clothes. For those of you who are thinking “wow you’re weird,” might be right but I loved it. Missionary dresses are a lot longer than normal. The hem hits around mid-calf and all dresses must have full sleeves. Doesn’t sound very cute right? But you’d be surprised. It’s kind of an Audrey Hepburn look, what with the flowing A-line dresses—or at least that is what I am telling myself. So needless to say, my roommate and I have had to reconsider our style when looking at clothes. No longer am I looking for anything cute, but my vision has narrowed to look for things that are both cute and super duper modest. Talk about hard to find.

The other weird thing about a mission is that we are only given two big suitcases and a small carry-on bag to fit all our stuff in for 18 months. Shampoo, straightener, blow dryer, curling iron, shoes, feminine hygiene stuff, nail polish, scarfs, underwear, jewelry, mousse, hair spray, toothbrush/paste, razor, books, notebooks, planner, journal, paper and envelopes for letters, coats, umbrella, and whatever else you might need to survive for 18 months in Australia. I’ve been in college for 11 months and I had almost two cars filled with my stuff. How in the world am I going to fit 18 months worth of living into three suitcases? I’m convinced it will be the first miracle—among many—that I witness on my journey to Brisbane. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Beauty Unveiled

Life. For me it is seems to be in Limbo. While many of my friends are signing contracts for their housing in the fall, I’m worrying about where to get my fingerprints taken. While everyone seems to be talking about what classes they should take next semester, I’m looking online at midi-length dresses. I’m stuck waiting. Waiting for June 26th. The day my life for the next 18 months begins.
So what can I do to prevent idleness? I get overwhelmed at times when I think about the challenges that lay before me, but mostly I just go on. I go to class. I do my homework—though my motivation is highly lacking ever since I opened my mission call—and I hang out with friends. Yet, my life has changed ever since I received the news I would be going to Brisbane. My outlook on many things has evolved.
For example, last weekend I took a journey to Southern Utah for my sister’s softball tournament. My parents are always raving about how magnificently beautiful St. George is. My parents were raised in Utah, and so I think it natural for them to think the vast area of nothing but rocks and a lone tree here and there is beautiful. To me it isn’t impressive. Sure it is interesting, but my definition of beauty within nature is lush greens with flowering trees blooming throughout the forests year-round. My perspective derives from being raised in the South.
After a long day of softball and having gained a nice splotchy sunburn we drove to the hotel. By now the night had settled in and everything was submerged in darkness. It would have seemed rather dreary were it not for the pecks of light that dotted the never-ending black sky. Sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car, I just stared in awe at the beautiful sky. Then something glowed up ahead, much brighter than the stars my neck was craned back to see.
It was the St. George Temple. It stood a glowing beacon amongst the desert’s night. Many thoughts flooded my mind all at once. This temple was a symbol of Heavenly Father. In the darkest night the temple still stood bright, just as in our darkest moments Heavenly Father will show us the light.
My second realization was that my parents weren’t crazy to think St. George was beautiful. Had there been a forest of my beautiful trees, the temple would have been swallowed up. It would not have shined as brightly.
Yes, going on a mission helped me not feel guilty about missing class on Friday; but it has also helped me see beauty in all God’s creations, even things I’d previously thought ugly. I challenge you, my readers, to look for the unique beauties that surround us and remember, “God don’t make no junk.” It doesn’t have to take a mission call to realize there is beauty all around.

Because I Love...

Today I gave a talk in church about Loving God. One of the ways we love God is to love those around us. Throughout out my life I have been blessed to have many people surround me and shower me with their love.
When I was a little kid my family moved from North Salt Lake, Utah to Rock Hill South Carolina. I cried and cried. Then when I had to leave South Carolina I cried and cried. I learned to love the people in South Carolina and I didn’t want to leave. It was especially sad for me because my parents were moving back to Utah as well. The visits home from college would no longer be to South Carolina, rather “home” is now in Morgan, Utah.
One day I was complaining about the emotional pain of leaving behind loved ones to my mom when she said, “Isn’t a blessing to have loved and been loved so much it hurts?”
This really hit me as I reflected on all the people in my life that I love. My Carolina Stake Presidency, my Young Women’s leaders, my ward family, my friends and my coaches. All these people helped shape me into the person I am today. Without them I do not know who I would be or where I would be for that fact.
Loving others is natural, and the more we love the people around us the more we learn to love our Heavenly Father. I really like this quote from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (one of the LDS church leaders):
“The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions—the more we allow our love for Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts—the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ.”
How wonderful life is. Because I am grateful for all the supporters in my life, I would like to share with the world my mission call opening. I would like to thank everyone in my life who has helped me become the person I am today. A special thanks goes to my family, who has always been there for me. Also, I want to thank my roommate Bethany, because she is such a great example to me of how to love everyone, even those I am less willing to give a chance.

The Wild Kingdom

Freaked. That is the word of today as I write down my journey to Brisbane.
Many of my friends at BYU have exclaimed, “Your mission is so cool.” For the most part that has been the general response. Until I went to Kinkos to make some copies of some Visa stuff with my dad.
For those of you living outside the state of Utah, pretty much everyone here is Mormon, especially in Provo. So when my dad and I went to Kinkos and handed the guy some forms to copy he knew I was going on a mission. His words, “Man I do not envy you. Australia has some of the deadliest animals in the world just roaming around.”
WHAT??? Here I thought I was the luckiest person in the world, getting to go to a place where it is never below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Naturally, when I got back to my dorm room the first thing I did was Google Australian animals.
There’s three I won’t really have to worry about since missionaries aren’t allowed to swim—The Box Jellyfish, The Great White Shark and then there is the Saltwater Crocodile. I should’ve known about the jellyfish and great whites, I mean how many times have I watched Finding Nemo while babysitting. Nemo’s dad and Dori encounter the Great White and Box Jelly Fish. Thank you Disney for preparing me!
Snakes. I hate them, but they are all over Australia and none of them seem to be harmless garden snakes. There’s the Taipan Snake, which has the most toxic venom in the world. Then the Brown Snakes—which are pretty bad anywhere—but in Australia the Brown Snakes have fast killing venom. Then the least scary of the snakes in Australia is the Tiger Snake. These snakes are smart and usually retreat when approached. Thank goodness!
Spiders. Gross and hairy. The Red Back Spider has neurotic venom, which causes extreme pain. And the Funnel Web Spider is highly populated on the East Coast of Australia. Lucky me. I am on the East Coast of Australia so my chances of coming across at least one of these hairy eight legged creatures is very possible.
In the end these creatures are very intimidating and I am a little freaked out about my chances of meeting one day. However, I know I will be protected and thankfully I will be serving near a hospital so if anything does happen I can receive the right medical attention.

Two Roads Diverged in a Wood

Lost. That was the way I felt at the beginning of my Fall Semester at BYU.
I had just finished one of the best summers of my life while attending my first semester at BYU. But now I was starting on my second semester and I was in a new dorm room all by myself, while all my summer friends were in different buildings. Suddenly, all the buildings around campus were filled to the brim as BYU’s 30 thousand plus students started to move in. As I began to get lost in the crowds my mind wandered backwards…
In high school I was an All-State volleyball player among other awards and I had had an offer to a small school in Pennsylvania. The day after my senior year volleyball season ended, my dad and I hopped on a plane and went to unofficially visit the school of Lock Haven. Everything about the school felt right and I was ecstatic about my future official visit when I left, and even more excited to be a future college athlete.
Then in February I received acceptance to Brigham Young University and in the words of my favorite poet Robert Frost:
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood”
I was stumped at what to do. Deep down inside of me something was telling me that BYU was the path I should choose. I did not ignore that prompting, so I called up the coach at Lock Haven and told him the news. It was heartbreaking and one of the hardest conversations I have ever had. The day after graduation my family boarded a plane west with 6 suitcases that were all mine to get me settled into college life early.
Summer was great and I didn’t regret not going to Lock Haven. That was until I was sitting in the warm sunlight of the second week of Fall Semester, when I felt lost, confused, alone, and something I had never felt in high school—inadequate. I was sitting in the grass watching girls and guys in athletic gear walk by and I envied them, because their career had not ended in high school. I envied the people in my student ward (what LDS church congregations are called) that could play the piano and sing. My talent had always been volleyball and now I had nothing.
October 2012 was a month that changed my life. If you read my first post you know what happened. President Thomas S. Monson, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced that sister missionaries no longer had to wait until they were 21 to go on missions. Sister missionaries could now enter the field at age 19.
Everything made sense now. The reason I didn’t go to Lock Haven to play volleyball was clear. I was meant to serve a mission. If I had been at Lock Haven under a four-year commitment to play volleyball, there is no way I would be headed to Brisbane right now. Some may think it crazy to put my life on hold for 18 months to go to Australia to proselyte the teachings of Jesus Christ, but I know that it is what the Lord wants me to do.
Is this going to be an easy journey? Certainly not. Am I nervous, excited and overwhelmed? You bet. But this is my path.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hense:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Called to Serve

Until October 2012′s LDS General Conference, sister missionaries were not allowed to enter the mission field until the age of 21. This announcement by President Thomas S. Monson has changed my life. Because of this announcement I am now able to go on a mission right away. My name is Natali Jensen and I have been called to serve in the Australia Brisbane Mission for 18 months and I will learn to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ in Mandarin Chinese. I leave June 26th and this is my story. Read, learn, share, and enjoy.