Saturday, April 25, 2015

Secondary Blog!

I've started a portrait series, and I'm really excited about it. It's essentially a series dedicated to women. I'll take portraits, conduct a short interview, and then post the interview on the secondary blog. I hope you all check it! :)

Portraits of Self-Worth.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Not Alone

So the last few weeks have been pretty rough. Not going into detail, because it's not important. But while wading through all the proverbial "muck," I just kept coming back to the same thought.

You are not alone.

I talked on the phone with my dearest and closest friend, Erika for over four hours on Sunday night. She let me cry for quite a good portion of that four hours, and made me feel so much better. We talked about the Savior, and how He felt everything I've been feeling.  How I don't have to feel alone, because I'm not alone.  Christ is there, holding and comforting me every step of the way. We talked about how Satan creeps in and tells you all these little lies, that soon turn into big lies. And since you believed the little deceptions, you now fall for the larger deceptions.

It's exhausting.

I have been reading past conference talks, and listening to current conference talks. I've been watching Mormon messages on YouTube, and it has really helped.

The one thing that I just keep coming back to that no matter how dark the night gets, how bleak the outcome seems, or how weak I find myself, it's going to be okay. The Atonement is there for all of that. The blessings of the Atonement light up the darkness, and strengthen my weak and failing heart. It's hard to grasp just how much God really loves us, mostly because that love is absolutely immeasurable, especially for our mortal minds. But the love is there, and it is infinite.

So, hard times or not, I'm happy to be exactly where I am, and going through exactly what I'm going through. It reminds me that I have very bright and beautiful things waiting on the other side of the storm. More importantly, I'm reminded that sometimes, it's not about asking God to calm the storm, but to help me weather whatever I may need to go through. I'm reminded that I have a safety to cling to during the torrential rains and blustery winds, and that because I have Him, I can weather anything.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Two Families

Yesterday, while driving home from the boys' school, the topic of me going home for Christmas came up.  Tommy asked if I was going to open presents with him on Christmas morning, and I told him that I would be in Utah for Christmas.  He got really frustrated with me and shouted, "Why do you always go to Utah for Christmas?! You never stay with me!" And then he proceeded to pout in the backseat.

I told him that Christmas is a time that you spend with your family, and that my whole family is in Utah.  He then got this really sad look on his face and said, "I am your family, and you never stay with me at Christmas."

Wait, what's that sound? Oh, that's just my heart shattering into a million pieces. So by this point, we are home, and I'm sitting on the couch with him, trying to explain what I mean.  I told him that I love him, and that he is my family - always has been, always will be.  I explained to him that I haven't seen the rest of my family in Utah for almost a year, so I need to spend time with them too.

He sits there for a minute, then looks at me and says: "Well, that's not fair." So I start chiming in, and he holds up his hand and says, "Hang on, I'm not finished." (yeah, can't imagine where he learned that...) He continues. "It's not fair, because you have two families, and I only have one family.  I want two families like you!"  And that statement just really reminded me of how lucky I am, and how much I have to be thankful for.

I have two families who love me beyond belief.  I was born into the most hilarious, open-minded, supportive family in the world. They love unconditionally, cheer me on when I'm chasing any one of my dreams, and encourage and comfort me when I fail.  They make me laugh til I cry (and quite possibly stop breathing). My dad can do the best cartoon impressions and keep everybody in stitches for hours. He likes to think he can sing like Elvis, and he taught me how much fun it is to scare random people walking on the street. Have you seen Gilmore Girls? My mom and I are like Lorelai and Rory Gilmore - we are the best of friends. I couldn't have picked a better one myself - Heavenly Father did me a solid in the mother department.  My brothers... I have many memories of us doing stupid things like rolling down sloped driveways on our roller blades, playing in flooded roads while cars were still driving, and using the house as an arena for extreme sports. I loved them for always (usually) letting me join in with their friends.  Growing up being the only girl your age is a tough gig in a neighborhood full of boys. Erika - I can't leave this gem out. We became sisters while we were teenagers and it's the best choice I ever made. I'm so unbelievably thankful for her. :)

And then I move to New York. This was quite possibly the most spontaneous (and at the time, I thought the dumbest) thing I've ever done. I was terrified beyond belief, but I needed to get out of Utah, and I found my way out. This family I've gained here is a lot more serious than the crazy Hooligans I left behind in Utah, but they love just as fiercely and are some of the most giving, big-hearted people I've ever come across. Dave and Susan helped me get back into school and have encouraged me every step of the way. Michael has a hard time letting people in, but he gives me full access to his feelings, his fears and everything he hopes to become when he grows up. Whenever I go to pick him from school, parties, whatever, the other kids ask him, "Is that your mom?"  He tells them, "No, that's my big sister."  He's started telling Tommy the same.  That I'm "not really their sister, but that I kind of am, so it's okay."  Tommy has the biggest personality and is quite possibly the sweetest 6-year-old in the world. He is so artistic and has the most imaginative mind.  He creates things I never would have dreamed up.  Watching the world through both of these kids' eyes has been the greatest blessing of all.

Now time has passed and my family has grown. I have added a sister (Rush) and two sweet nephews. I didn't know I could love two little humans as much I love Steven and Miles.  Thank the heavens for those sweet little boys and their incredible mama. :)

So yes, I have two families. And yes, I'm beyond thankful for that everyday.   I feel the love from both of them everyday. Sometimes I feel a little selfish having two families when some people don't even have one. So I guess just hold your families extra tight and remind them how thankful you are for them. You are blessed beyond belief to call them yours. :) And now... A picture explosion.

 I have an incredibly beautiful life.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Favorite Person.

I have a sister named Erika.  She's not my sister by blood and genetics, but my sister by heart and soul. I met her when I was 13-years-old and I've been thankful for that everyday.  She's been serving a mission for the Church for the past 18 months, and I've missed her like crazy.  Lucky for me she comes in 8 days!! Looking back, it flew by so quickly.  Day by day, it felt like it took forever!

Have you seen the Kristen Bell sloth video?  If not, watch it here.  Now, you should understand that I have about that same emotional scale as her, and since Erika will be home very soon, I'm definitely past a 7.  Way past. Therefore, I've officially lost it.

When I met Erika, I had just moved to Lehi, I was 13 and I knew nobody.  In 10th grade (2 years later), we reconnected at school but she missed a lot of sophomore year, so I didn't see much of her. Then I started my junior year, and that was easily the worst period of high school for me.  Bullying that I had experienced the last three years had escalated to incredibly depressing degrees and I felt worthless basically everyday. One of my closest friends at the time had spread a lot of rumors about me, shutting me out from our entire group. 

{Enter Erika} - We began hanging out a lot and I finally felt like I could trust someone. We talked together and we cried together (if you know me, then you know this is not unusual). She has always been there for me, even when I've been at my darkest and weakest points. I soon realized that the whole "it's the quality of friends that matter, not the quantity" had a lot of truth. 

When we were in college, neither one of us was active in the church.  I had pretty much stopped going when I was 16 and hated the world and decided I didn't care.Then, when we were at Snow College, we were both pretty inactive. We went to church maybe two times. If you don't know, Snow College is in Ephraim, about 10 minutes from Manti. Even though we weren't actively participating in the gospel, for some reason we still went to the temple every Tuesday night.  I would drive my little beat up stick-shift to Manti and we would just park outside the temple and talk.  We would talk for hours.  We'd talk about our fears and our hopes, our triumphs and our failures.  It still amazes me how I was so stubborn about not going to church, yet the temple drew me in and I refused to miss a week of just sitting outside. We literally drove in a blizzard and got stuck in a ditch (which I miraculously drove my tiny Mazda out of) and kept going to the temple. Say what you want... but we were determined. 

After Erika and I were both out here, we did a LOT of growing up.  We both became really active in church, changed the kind of people we chose spend our time with and focused on building our testimonies. We challenged each other to be better, and it's incredible what happened. I mean, she's just finishing up serving a mission... This change was obviously pretty good!! :) 

It's been rough having her gone, not being able to talk to her whenever I want (what can I say, I'm selfish), but witnessing how close she has become to the Savior and how gigantic her testimony has become is incredible.  I am so happy that I got to choose her as my sister and I couldn't be more proud of her. Heavenly Father sure knew what He was doing, when he introduced her into my story. 

There are some people who come into your life and teach you things. They teach you that you are strong, that you are capable and that you don't have to believe any of the crap the world throws at you. They are your helpers and your teachers. There are also some people that come in, leave a lot scars, and then walk out of your life (thank heavens.) They teach you valuable lessons, but you definitely don't need them to stick around.  

Then there are people who come into your life and help pick up the pieces that are left behind.  They remind you that just because you are strong doesn't mean you have to be strong at all times. They understand you are capable, but they aren't willing to stand back while you fight your toughest battles on your own.  They make you realize that the world can be a beautiful place, even with all the terrible stuff that comes from it.  Those are the keepers. 

Erika is definitely a keeper. Love her. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

In Remembrance.

Some posts are easy to write, and some are difficult to write.  Usually the ones that are easy to write don't mean that much to me, and the ones that are difficult to write are the most meaningful.  This is one of the difficult posts.

I have been working as a nanny for the Restaino family for nearly five years. In that time I have met many wonderful people and grown as a person because of the way they've influenced my life. 

Patrick Restaino was one of those people.  He was sweet, kind and gentle, all while being lively, feisty and hilarious. He was a tiny, Italian grandfather that lived his life in a huge way. 

The first time I met "Pop" was on our annual Ocean City, NJ beach trip.  I had been in NY for a month.  He saw me and said, "Yep. We got a pretty one.  Don't worry, I'll only let the nice, handsome and smart fella's come around for you."  He was always trying to marry me off, as long as it was to someone in NY so that I could stick around.  He told me that I was part of the family now, and that no matter what - I always would be.  He made me feel instantly comfortable in a world that, at 19, was terrifying me. 

There was never a time that he didn't tell me how wonderful of a job I was doing, and that he truly appreciated me being there for his little grandsons. He constantly let me know that I was cherished, respected, loved and appreciated by the family I worked for.  He never failed to make me feel like a better person.  He brightened my bad days and never even knew it. He was the kind of person who made you feel like the best person in the world just by making a nice dinner or drawing a silly picture or winning at a card game. He was the kind of person that always made you feel like you were the most worthy person in the room.  He made you feel like you could do anything. He believed in people and in their goodness.

Pop was an incredible storyteller.  He could make a couple's meeting and marriage sound like the most epic love story ever told. He had a knack for capturing a person's attention and engaging them so fully in his stories that a person would feel a real part of them. The rest of the family always teased him for telling stories all the time, but it was my favorite part of his visits. 

Pop never failed to make me laugh.  He had an incredible gift for reminding me that life is such a gift and that you should spend your time with people you love, doing things you love, and working towards things you believe in with all your heart. He always encouraged me to be a better person.  He often listened to me talk about my writing and helped me with suggestions and tidbits of his own. He never thought I was crazy or delusional for wanting to be a writer. He told me that writing is the best way to leave our thoughts, ideas and beliefs with the ones we love.  He helped me truly see that writing and taking pictures are ways keep a moment - to leave memories and legacies behind. 

Pop was diagnosed with cancer in September, and he came to live with us by the end of the month. As time went on, chemo took it's toll on him and he became really weak. I had assumed the role of his home care nurse, so we spent a lot of time together. One day, we were talking about men and how he knew one day, someone would see how great I was.  I told him I was more worried about getting through school and making sure he was taken care of.  I was fixing the sheets and blankets on the bed while he was laying down, and he grabbed my wrist and said, "Don't forget that you are an incredible person and a kind woman. The next time I get married, I'm going to find someone just like you."  

That is one my last memories with him, and it was a very tender moment.  With everything he was going through, he made me feel good and worthy.  He had no idea I'd been feeling quite the opposite for a while.  I know it's kind of silly for me to love that moment so much, but I think it's because it just illustrated exactly who he was all the time.  No matter what he was going through or feeling, he always wanted to make sure everyone else was taken care of.  I loved that moment, because even in his illness, his heart remained so gentle and caring.  It's incredible how when you're meant to be there to help someone, they help you more than you could possibly believe. I don't think I realized how much of a rock he'd become in my life until now. He had so much wisdom and love, and he was never shy about sharing it. 

I woke up to the news that he'd passed away on Monday morning. I sort of just went numb. I've definitely been in denial since I heard. I still am a little bit, I think. Grief is an ocean I don't care to swim in. I just know that I already miss him a lot. I know there isn't a day that I won't miss him, but I am so happy to know that he is not in pain anymore, and that he gets to be with his wife again. His love for her was so apparent. :) I was blessed to be given a third grandfather for the last five years and that's what I'm going to think about - the happy stuff. Not about last moments, or sadness, or death.  That's not Pop.  Pop was smiles, hugs, love and kindness. He found beauty in the smallest moments of a summer day and I choose to find beauty in memories. :) 

What is this thing that men call death?
This quiet passing in the night?
‘Tis not the end but genesis
Of better worlds and greater light

O God, touch Thou my aching heart
And calm my troubled, haunting fears
Let hope and faith, transcendent, pure
Give strength and peace beyond my tears.

There is no death, but only change
With recompense for vict’ry won
The gift of Him who loved all men
The Son of God, the Holy One.

-Gordon B. Hinckley


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fishers of Men and The Spirit.

Two weeks ago, I was emailing my brother who is serving a mission in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  He has been really discouraged lately and I was having trouble figuring out how to help him all the way in NY! He just told me some of the struggles he's been going through.  Feeling inadequate and feeling like the Spirit hasn't been very present in his mission endeavors.  My heart was full, but mostly heavy because I love this kid and he is ALWAYS so upbeat and positive!  I was at a complete loss as to what to write to him, so I told him it might be a couple weeks before he got a response.  I wanted to make sure I had time to really think about it, pray about it, and write exactly what needed to be shared.  I am positive that my words are inadequate to describe the feelings and thoughts I had while writing this to my cute missionary brother, and the words fall short of the message I am trying to convey.  However, I sent it and was happy that I had finally figured out what to say.

Then I couldn't stop thinking about the subjects I had touched on and shared my thoughts about.  Something was just tapping at my brain saying "you need to do more, you need to do more!" Ok... no. This was a private email conversation and I had finished, what more needed to be said?? Then I get this gentle nudge that I needed to post it on my blog.  What?  No way.  I sent it to Josh, the intended recipient of the message, I was done! Well, considering I had just written Josh about the whispering of the Spirit and following those promptings... I felt like a hypocrite.  Awesome. So, here I am, posting my thoughts and feelings about the Savior for my small little world of readers!  Did I mention I love you guys?  Because I definitely do.  I did take a few things out, but only because they were meant for Josh and wouldn't pertain to anyone else. :) Without further ado: 

You know, I believe that feeling the Spirit can be very difficult at times.  I have found that it becomes easier when I step aside and hand EVERYTHING over to the Lord. Sometimes we feel inadequate in different ways and it can be frustrating (not to mention disheartening) to feel like no matter how hard you are trying, it just never gets better!  I would expect that that feeling is definitely magnified while a person is trying their best to share the gospel.  You are spreading the MOST important message on this earth.. you really think Lucifer is going down without a major fight? Don't think you are the only one that feels this way.  It has been the case for many past missionaries, is the case with current missionaries and will be the case with future missionaries.  

When the Savior was ministering among men, He didn't seek after the most learned and intelligent to aid Him.  He didn't seek out those with a lot of power or money.  Do you know who He did seek out?  Fishermen. Humble fishermen who were just quietly doing their days' work in order to provide a meager living.  The Savior knew that these men would be the most helpful in bringing others unto Christ and to understand the message which He was sharing, so that others would truly listen. A quote to kind of illustrate this:

"When the Master ministered among men, He called fishermen at Galilee to leave their nets and follow Him, declaring, “I will make you fishers of men.” 2 The Lord extended those calls to humble men so that through them others would hear the truths of His gospel and come unto Him."

The Savior knew that these humble men did not have the experience or the knowledge necessary to share the truths of His gospel.  He DID know that the humility they possessed - the humble lives they lived - would show so many others that even though we may feel small or unimportant, we have the opportunity to share our beliefs and to act on the things we know to be true.  I would expect that these men felt incredibly inadequate to carry out the Lord's work and word... I mean, this is the Savior of all mankind!  What could lowly fishermen do for Him?  But I think that's just it... Feeling like we have nothing to give, but giving all that we have anyway.  The Lord asked that they follow Him, and He declared that if they should leave their nets, He would make them fishers of men.  

Leaving their nets.  It sounds pretty simple, right?  Just drop the nets and walk away. Well, I want you to imagine what that would mean, big picture.  So they leave their nets, which means that they won't be catching any fish that day, and that more than likely, any fish they already had would spoil or possibly be stolen.  As a result of leaving all that behind, they would have no fish (or perhaps only spoiled fish) to sell, and this is their livelihood we're talking about!  This is how fishermen survive... by fishing!  Looking at it that way, leaving their nets seems like a pretty big deal, right?  Well, that's because it is.  But did they tell the Savior "no" and stay with their nets? Absolutely not.  They left their nets and agreed to follow Him and tell others the truths of His gospel.  They did this because they knew that they would be immensely blessed.  They knew that by acting on faith, Christ would lead them in ways that would make it possible to help others see the light and truth of the gospel.  They knew that Christ would keep His promise and turn them into fishers of men - that through them, others would learn the truthfulness of the gospel.  It probably was hard and maybe a little scary at times.  Returning to their nets would have been the safe and easy thing to do, but I have a feeling they understood that doing what the Lord asked them to do was far more important.  That fishing for men, in order to touch the hearts with the words of the gospel, was far more important than casting their nets out on the sea of Galilee.  

We all have our own "nets" to worry about and tend to, but I think we should realize that, as servants of the Lord, we need to leave our nets on the shore and become fishers of men.  Put everything you have in the hands of the Lord, forgetting all things of the world: of your worries, your fears, your struggles, poor music, friends that don't uplift you, etc. Basically anything that drives the Spirit away from you, and you away from the presence of the Spirit.  Leave all of those things on the shore and ask the Savior how you can become a fisher of men.  Pray for guidance, to know who you should approach with the truth of the gospel and then, when you do have a confirmation of that, ACT on it immediately.  Keeping up faith and an eye forward to things of Christ and the things pertaining to the gospel is what will help you be in frequent, active communication with the Holy Ghost.  When you start thinking about and focusing too much on all the STUFF, you become severely distracted and focusing on the Spirit becomes increasingly difficult.

Keep in mind that the Spirit is called the "still, small voice" for a reason.  It's meant to be heard when you actively provide an environment where it feels welcome.  It's not something that is always present and never leaves your side. You have to do everything you can to keep it around. It's up to you to remain still and quiet enough (meaning focused and heartfelt enough) to keep it present.  It's very much dependent on your mood and your attitude.  If you are always allowing the things of the world to creep in and eat away at your happiness and willingness, the Spirit will dissipate. 

Remember that you are human and that sometimes, you will have a really bad day, week or even MONTH, where you feel like everything is going wrong and you can't seem to get anything right. Remember that as a human, you will experience a great deal of challenges at every stage in your life. Challenges are a major part of this earthly existence, and they are inescapable.  The are meant to help us grow and change for the better.  Don't forget that even in the face of these challenges, Heavenly Father knows exactly what is going on and what you are going through.  He gave you that specific challenge to teach you something, and He wouldn't have given you that specific challenge if you weren't meant to overcome it and learn from it.  

A quote from Neal A. Maxwell:

"God loves us and, loving us, has placed us here to cope with challenges which he will place before us. I'm not sure we can always understand the implications of his love, because his love will call us at times to do things we may wonder about, and we may be confronted with circumstances we would rather not face. I believe with all my heart that because God loves us there are some particularized challenges that he will deliver to each of us. He will customize the curriculum for each of us in order to teach us the things we most need to know. He will set before us in life what we need, not always what we like. And this will require us to accept with all our hearts—particularly your generation—the truth that there is divine design in each of our lives and that you have rendezvous to keep, individually and collectively."

So you need to ask yourself... what do you need to learn?  Chances are, you probably don't know. So maybe start smaller.  What is something you need to change in order to overcome the challenge you are currently dealing with?  What should you change in order to become more focused and able to discern the whispering of the Spirit?  Take it from there.  

A quote by Neal A. Maxwell:

"Christ on the cross gave out the cry 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' That cry on the cross is an indication that the very best of our Father's children found the trials so real, the tests so exquisite and so severe, that he cried out—not in doubt of his Father's reality, but wondering “why” at that moment of agony—for Jesus felt so alone. James Talmage advises us that in ways you and I cannot understand, God somehow withdrew his immediate presence from the Son so that Jesus Christ's triumph might be truly complete."

Don't ever underestimate the Atonement.  Jesus Christ has felt everything you have ever felt, and will ever feel. He didn't just suffer for your sins.  He suffered with your feelings - your heartache, your anguish, your despair, your sadness, your feeling of inadequacy, your trepidation, your insecurities and your fears.  He felt utterly alone... He was alone!  God's presence had left Him, for that was the only way He could truly overcome the greatest trial of all.  Alone is one thing you never have to be.  Even if you feel it, the Lord knows exactly what you're feeling, so He is the best person to find comfort in!!  Seek Him out and feel peace.  Prayer and scripture study is definitely a major part of that, but sometimes we need an extra push... in which case, ask for a blessing!  For the longest time, I felt like asking priesthood holders for a blessing was a weakness.. like I couldn't handle life on my own. Then a realization (quite obvious, really) hit me:  I can't handle life on my own. That's why the Atonement plays such a huge role in my life now.  If you feel like a blessing would be helpful with a big decision, a deep heartache or a great struggle, then get one.  And most importantly, talk openly with your mission president (or your bishop, father, husband, etc.,) about what you're feeling and the struggles you are having.  Chances are, he was in your shoes at one point and he can most definitely help you!! Isn't the power of priesthood a beautiful thing? :)

Anything ever worth doing was never easy.  Think about all the people you've helped or shared the gospel with. We all create relationships and bonds with other people, so chances are, there is someone who needs to hear the gospel from you, specifically.  Don't give it up! :) 

That's my testimony.  I know and feel the reality of the Atonement in my life everyday.  I know that Christ is an ever-present person and friend in my life.  I know that I am not given any challenge that I can't overcome and learn from, no matter how difficult the road may seem.  I know that I am deeply loved by a Savior who picks me up when I fall and lets me cry on His shoulder when I need it.  I have never been deserted by Him, and I know I never will be.  I share all of these thoughts with my lovely friends, in the name of Jesus Christ, even the Redeemer of the world, Amen.

Friday, July 26, 2013

With Brave Wings, She Flies.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who dreamed that she could fly.  She'd look up to the stars in the sky and smile, wondering what it would be like to find herself a little closer to their light.  She imagined feeling the wind whipping through her hair and the freeing feeling of being weightless in such a heavy world.  She wondered if she could catch the stars and keep them in jar, just so she could remember where she'd been. She wondered if she would be able to fly close enough to Heaven to feel God's hand reach out and grab her own.

As the girl grew older, she realized that flying towards the stars was something that might never happen to her.  She'd still look up at them hoping, wanting to be a little closer to their light, but had a hard time believing it could ever happen.  She was soon finding that her inability to fly was the furthest thing from feeling free that she could imagine. The weight of the world had put a lot on her shoulders, and smiling became a little more difficult.  Her jar was still empty and she was desperate to fill it with light, love and happiness.  She felt that her inability to fly had taken her away from God and that His touch was almost too far out of reach.

The years kept passing and this girl was now a young woman.  She had given up all hope of reaching the stars and didn't like to think about her childish dreams of flying.  She didn't look up to the sky, because what she saw was nothing but a dark night - a cloudy sky, entirely devoid of of the shimmering specks that once filled her with joy.  The wind did whip through her hair, but it felt cold and ruthless - heavy with sadness - just like the world around her.  Instead of holding out for the stars to light up the jar she kept, it now held something quite different.  The girl had allowed others to place many scars within the glass, all of which were filled with painful memories and heartache that she couldn't seem to let go of.  She believed that God was nowhere within her reach and that He never would be.  She believed that it was pointless to stretch out her hand to look for Him, so instead she kept her eyes cast downward and put a wall around her heart.

A few more years have passed since then, but something is different about the girl.  There are things that have changed for her, and now - with brave wings, she flies.

This young woman spends a lot of time chasing down her dreams, all of which lie among the stars. She's not afraid to jump, her heart filled with the hopes of reaching her goals and helping others along the way. The picture of the night sky is something she truly treasures.  She looks to the stars, now understanding that they brought light to her life, just not in the ways that she had expected them to.  The wind in her hair is something that makes her smile.  It's warm and welcoming, and it makes her feel alive.  Now she sees the world with new eyes.  Although there is still sadness and heaviness, she also sees the beauty that is abundant in the world and looks for opportunities to make it a little happier and a little lighter.  The girl still has her jar, and yes, it still holds a lot of scars.  But the girl found that when she added some stars to her scars, it created a very beautiful and bright awareness.  The stars shed light on the scars, and she could finally see that the scars were only meant to shape her into the person she was supposed to be.  She found that the scars told her where she'd been, and that the stars showed her where she could go.  She realized that she couldn't see the stars without a little darkness.  Most importantly, the girl found that she didn't immediately feel God's touch by reaching up with her hand, but that He came most readily when she was reaching out. What she found was that He was walking right next to her, everyday, even through the starless nights and whipping winds.  He often carried her without her even realizing it. The girl now keeps her heart open and her eyes alight, for she knows that it is the best way to be happy and to feel the grace of God.