Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I Have Earned this Degree, the Right to Make Art, and to Struggle


I stare down at my Freudian Slippers. Sigmund's cartoonish eyes meet mine while his tongue lolls out from under his white beard. At this moment, I am avoiding my husband's repeated inquiries.

"How do you feel?"

"Any goals? Comments?"

"How are you?"


He is asking me these questions because it was the first day of my last semester at BYU-Idaho. I graduate in 14 weeks.

So I stare at my slippers, wriggling my toes and enjoying my nonsensical balter, because I don't fancy an existential crisis with my morning tea.


Neil Gaiman talks about the surreality of creating for a living. His wife, Amanda Palmer, coined the term "Imposter Syndrome." Symptoms include believing two men would knock on your door, tell you creating wasn't a real job, and make you get a desk job. That has always sounded like some kind of Harrison Bergeron-esque dystopian circumstance until I remembered I've been spending four years trying to earn the right to tell people I'm a designer.

I have spent most of those years questioning and critiquing my work. Nothing was good enough, someone was better, I pushed myself harder, self-destructively wouldn't accept mistakes and was wildly disappointed when they happened. But it had never occurred to me that I didn't belong in this world.



"BABE. I GOT IT. I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING." my binder flew up into the air as I jumped out of my chair to get Burke's attention. I grabbed his face with both of my hands and stared intently.

"Dada. Existentialism. It's so obvious."

"What's obvious."

"College students. Oh, this is awesome, I'm on it, this'll be poignant."

"I'd understand your excitement a lot better if you told me your entire train of thought." he reminded me to back up.

"Okay, okay, so I wanna do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, right? Well, I figured out how I'm going to make it relatable. I flipping love absurdist theatre, oh my gosh."

"Still unclear, babe."

"I'm going to cast Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as college students! It's perfect! 'Cuz we're all having an existential crisis!!"


I spent October perfectly placing and timing sound effects for Jane Eyre, rehearsing my directing scene from R&GareDead, and prepping for NaNoWriMo. I was still optimistic-- a dizzy dreamer, really. Between the amount of storms/ atmospheric disturbances and music I ended up writing for the Jane Eyre, I really shouldn't have had to question if I was an artist. But I kept looking over my shoulder. I was eying the door, just waiting for the suits who were going to drag me out of the theatre.

It's a common habit of mine to analyze my life like a piece of literature. I'm usually aware of foreshadowing or thematic motifs. I learned a lot about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. As well as existentialism and Dada.

My existential crisis hit just before Tech Week.



"This still life looks like a 50-ft pomegranate on a snowy mountain. I guess it's a metaphor now."

"None of this is working. I've been staring at piano keys for hours and I can't nail anything down. I'm just not cut-out for this."

"Does my class just not get absurdist theatre or am I delusional in believing my scene makes sense?"

"I feel like my faculty isn't invested in me, like they've lost hope in my future, I'm not promising enough."

"Does anyone in this department even respect me?"

"Have I done anything important here? Will anyone remember me?"

"Is anything I've produced even art? Is it even good? It doesn't have to be great, just tell me if it's good."

"I don't think I can do this. I don't think I belong here. I'm kidding myself."

"I have a useless degree!!"


I spent most of November on the floor in a crumpled heap. I tried to drown out the screeching car crash of my head and heart colliding with copious amounts of Netflix. I wrote a scant 3,000 words for NaNoWriMo. And I watched my enthusiasm for Jane Eyre implode, dissolve and dissipate. I was overly critical of every sound-- every time something was heard from the speakers, I'd flinch as if I'd personally smacked everyone in the audience. I was convinced everything was terrible and my mentor, director and faculty were putting up with me because it was just one more month and then they'd be rid of me. Nothing my husband said to me made a difference. Opening night came and I hid in a corner for a week. I feebly tried to deposit hope in an quickly decreasing bank of ambitions and dreams.

I was so very close to giving up.

I was graduating anyways, the journey was over, and I could give up after this. It's not a disappointment if no one believed in it, right?



"Laura! I have a weird proposition for you..."

"Haha, okay, sure. What's up?"

"Remember when I asked you if you'd take my graduation photos? Could you take them this week?"

"Totally! Where do you want to go?"

"That's where it gets weird."


Let's talk about Modern Art for a hot second. It's a fantastic paradox where you can tell people what you've done is art and some punk teenager will say it's not art and a doctorate in art history will say it's the pinnacle of art and they're all right. It's infuriating when you're trying to take it down and impenetrable when you're building it up.

Now, Dada is this anti-art movement, perhaps you've heard the term avant-garde. Basically, a bunch of cynics got together and said "ARGH I'M ANGRY ABOUT WORLD WAR I" and then did stuff that's art but it's also not art!(?).

(Please don't describe it that way to your professors.)

It's also associated into stuff like absurdist theatre, existentialism, destructive performance art, and it was my redemption because it meant that my struggle was important, artistic, and glorious.

Taking inspiration from Pete Townshend, I decided the only way to win back solid footing in my creating field was to destroy it. 

That's right.


I was going to immolate my degree.

Not just burn it-- I was going to kill it and offer it as a sacrifice to my existential crisis.

"So, I wan wondering if you'd come out to the dunes and take some pictures while I burn this thing."

"Yeah! That sounds so cool! Let's do it!"

So here it is, my offering:

This is a compilation of everything I'd ever done during my time at this school. Resume, CV list, business cards, programs, pictures, portfolio pieces, scripts, plays I wrote, EVERYTHING. It's all represented.

And then I burned it.

I used LIGHTER FLUID. LIGHTER FLUID. I made sure that sucker BURNED. 

Because the smoke had to get to heaven. Or hell. It had to get to wherever my crisis existed. It had to reach each doubt and suffocate it.

Wow, that sounds just... so... pretentious? Artistic? Hyperbolic? Extensive? Excessive?


I learned something very powerful that day. I was educated enough to know about Dada and that what I was doing had a long-standing tradition and heritage and meant something on several levels. And because I had made an informed decision for this art project, I was an artist.

I watched my work burn and I learned it was okay to let it.


December 13, 2016 

I graduate in three days.

Wednesday, I'll be baking. Presumably all day.

Thursday, I'm going to present my Jane Eyre project in front of a panel of faculty members and pack up my apartment.

Friday, I'm going to walk on a stage and get a fake diploma and have dinner with my family and then I will be done.

I have earned my degree: a Bachelor's in Technical Theatre and Design.

I have earned my right to make my art. Wildly, imperviously, powerfully.

I have earned the right to struggle.

No one can take that away from me.


Exit, Pursued By A Bear

It's only Tuesday.

At the beginning of each week, I made goals. I'm determined to have a perfect week where I eat healthy, work out, and get all my homework in on time and well done. I try to include some other successful adult stuff in there like "control your RBF so people don't think you want to kill them" and "maybe you should write your book. Or play. Or any of the million projects you have." Sometimes I dream about an hour or so when I can play my guitar. Usually, Monday and Tuesday go pretty great and then something happens Wednesday night and it throws off the rest of the week so by the time I get back to Sunday, I spend most of church apologizing for my inability to "even" and swearing I will be better the next week.

This week, it was Tuesday.

It technically started on Monday when Monday Evening found me distraught because I couldn't decide if I was an evil person in general, or if I just wasn't worth someone's time. Either way, I felt I had to repent for whatever I was doing wrong. I didn't go to bed at 10:30 like I said I would. Sorry.

I didn't work out Tuesday morning because I didn't get much sleep the night before. I had a pretty molasses kind of morning, but I managed to get to class on time. I successfully barged through the school day, unable to concentrate but desperately attempting to read a 5-act play, accepting my unusually low retention rate. I apologized for being distracted and unproductive.

In the following class, I found out people were scared or concerned because I come across as really off-putting. It's true-- I have notorious RBF as well as crippling social anxiety. I don't deal with large groups of people very well. So I told them I was sorry and tried to show a little happiness.

I tried to do homework tonight, but I wanted to take care of those that were close to me and struggling. Unfortunately for the second loved one who approached me, I wasn't able to concentrate, didn't understand the tones of the texts, and didn't fulfill my duties as a friend. I made things worse-- and for that I apologize.

It's only Tuesday night-- and I want the world to know that I have done my best.

I'm accepting the fact that there are probably going to be assignments that won't get turned in tomorrow. I'm trying to be okay with the hit it'll take in my grade. I'm already writing my apologies to my mentors and teachers that I work with daily. I'm begging for my friend's forgiveness. I'm trying to make it better. I'm trying to be better.

I've never asked anyone to cut me some slack because of this or that. I have never made excuses for myself and even in the midst of panic attacks, heartbreaks and emergencies, I go to class or work and I do my best.

At what point does the world say that my best is not good enough?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Jan-April: Post Mortem

I have the feelings. I have them hard. I have a lot of them. And when one has feelings, there's no greater place than the internet to put them.

I'm not sure how many of you were aware of the hectic semester I've had (my mother and her phone call history are certainly aware). Normally, I'd stay quiet about it and continue to use my mother as free therapy. But because of a sweet and heart-felt testimony from a young woman in my ward, I want to share it with anyone who wants to read and share in the solidarity of college-student stress. My woes and tragedies are not uncommon. Mostly, I want to share what I've learned from this experience in the hopes that it might help one of you, should you be in the same situations.

For starters, my ADHD came back with a vengeance. We all joke about how, on a scale of 1 to 10 I'm a--LOOK A SQUIRREL! But do any of you actually know how frustrating it is to not be able to control your mind? You're on a horse that you can't bridle and more often than not, that horse thinks today's a great day to try base jumping. Guess it's time to get over that fear of heights, eh?

What's more, I got to experience the crashing waves of apathy that accompany a special strand of depression. This special strand usually hits Return Missionaries as they notice and struggle with the bumpy ride that is transitioning. If you're as good a missionary as you ought to be and you give it all you got, you know that when you come home… you don't have much left to you anymore. You have to rebuild yourself. It's especially difficult because receiving revelation is much different when your stewardship is just yourself and not an entire city anymore. Decisions to life questions don't exactly come every hour on the hour. Being away from the spirit is hard.

If you combine the inability to focus and incredible apathy that turns your brain into sludgy molasses, do you know what you get? ANXIETY. I'd been stressed before in the past. I've had my fair share of panic attacks. But persistent anxiety was a new ball-game for me. Every day, I felt 5 minutes away from a break down. I had to "conceal, don't feel, don't let them know" because life had to go on and I had to take care of people or do some schoolwork or go to sleep. You know, human stuff. Anxiety evolves into panic, panic turned into terror and pretty soon, I faced a lot of sleepless nights and a belief that any moment, my heart would rip out of my ribcage and my eyeballs would explode like a balloon that'd been filled up with too much helium.

That's a less than pretty sight for anyone.

In summation, I felt like this:

This time, I'm not exaggerating for the funzies. I've never seen a more perfect allegory of this semester. Each week felt like the shock of an axe in my door as I was backed up to the wall with no way out, too weak to brandish a knife for protection. Literally, just living on a prayer. 

Throw in a dash of drama from late night rehearsals, boys, schoolwork, wanting to be a better friend than I had been and I'm really serious about the eyeball-exploding, heart-bursting scenario described before. 

And yet, remarkably, my eyeballs are in tact and my heart has made no violent, sudden movements towards the surface of my skin. 

So how does one do it? Without medication for any of the three ailments, no counselor and the constant feeling of isolation, I can confidently say: #divineintervention. 

For anybody who feels me on this level, I want to share how I got out. Am getting out. It's an on-going process. 

I started by making a list of everything I wanted to do-- this year, next year, next next year-- and then eliminated everything that was not being helpful. I made goals and set some plans. My list included things like: 

-don't drop out of college 
-eat more protein 
-go to bed before 1am 
-go running for at least a half hour

This is not the definitive list… 

As I eliminated stressors, things began to change. School was still very stressful and I still marvel at the 8th wonder of the modern universe that is my GPA and how the heck did I achieve one so high with so beat up a brain. BUT. I laughed a lot more. I was making it whole days being happy instead of singular hours of the day. And then, something wonderful happened. 

Like I said before, as a Returned Missionary, you don't need the Lord following quite as closely as behind you as you did before. But if I learned anything on my mission, it's that when the crap hits the fan, the WORST thing you could do is sacrifice your spirituality. I knew that it's worth it to read your scriptures instead of sleep in. I know that you can't afford to NOT pray every night. I testify that were it not for weekly temple attendance, I would not have been able to do this. You guys, I need those covenants because if I didn't have them, then I really would have done this whole semester alone. But I tried my very best to be a good girl and I was not forgotten for my meager efforts.  

I see the beauty of the Lord's plan. I'm sure He enjoyed this roller coaster as much as I did, if not a little less. I can say with resounding surety that the Lord has not left me alone. Not even for an instance. I put into force the idea that my God was greater than my trials. I trusted Him enough to get up and try every day. I made my way through my daily To Do lists and said prayers every second of it. I prayed for anger and bitterness to be washed away. I prayed for the mental capacity to not fail my assignments.  I prayed for the physical strength to get out of bed. There were so many times when I thought that, maybe because I wasn't a missionary anymore, I wasn't of use or importance to God and maybe I was on my own for realsies. And then stuff would happen like I'd get a second wind or a friend would call me up to get me to the temple. I've seen a lot of signs and miracles that God is there and has been there, the first and foremost being that I wasn't hit with lightning. The Lord listened to every prayer-- petty and pathetic or emotional and heart-broken. 5 minutes or a half an hour. 

In the wake of the destruction of this semester, I found out that I'm unbreakable. Wounded, of course. Hurting, always. There are days when I can't keep my eyes open and I want to bash in the hood of a car with Mjolnir. Even now, I'm up with insomnia and I feel clawed open by a large and undomesticated cat. But there's literally no force on earth that could keep me down, out, and quiet. 

Parting thought: a lot of us are afraid of something. I was afraid of everything. I found a way to stop being afraid; I stopped giving a good gosh crap. I didn't have to care, God was taking care of it, all I had to do was put my head down and just keep MOVING. Moving FORWARD. My attitude was that of "TO HELL WITH FEELING SUCKY, I WILL NOT."(pardon my French.) I've kicked and fought my way here, I'll surely make it there. I'm pretty sure I can do anything. In fact, I know I can handle anything. I don't give in to the sadness, I don't give in to the negative thinking. I want to because wouldn't it just be easier to float down the river? But it'll be a delightful day in Hell when I give in to the enemy of my soul. 

Of course, none of the empowering things I've said can take away the pain. We will all still be hurting. Often on the floor, bent over in pain. In this Easter season, I'm grateful for the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ for a different reason. Usually, I'm grateful because it means I can drop the load of sins I've been carrying. This Easter, I'm grateful because I'm starting to get what it means to take His yoke upon us. It's still a weight, but I have the Son of God to pull that with me. There is no one who understands me better and there is no one as loyal as He. He has stood by and will continue to stand with me. I know that I could not survive were it not for Him. 

So! How do I feel, at the coming of the close of a brutal semester? Hit it, Henley. 

I'm unbreakable. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

This Is For My Future Kids

I don't know how prominent a fact this is to y'all, but I don't like Valentine's Day. It seems that the worst days of the year land somewhere in May, sometimes November, but ALWAYS February 14th. I've had a lot of time out here in these cold hinterlands to think about why exactly I'm so against celebrating the patron saint of Getting-Clubbed-to-Death-in-the-Streets-of-Rome. For one, I can't stand the corrupted lenses of commercialism. Why is love all of a sudden about buying jewelry and eating asbestos-flavored chalk hearts? When did that happen?

But I'm doing something brave this year! I've decided to celebrate this holiday, this excuse to get out of rehearsal! Why? Because I have something I need to fight for. 

50 Shades of Grey is coming out this weekend. I was never a fan of it simply because it was Twilight spawn and I knew it was tasteless erotica… and then I realized just how bad 50 Shades really is. The articles started coming out and I came to a conclusion: there are so many things totally wrong with this book. It then evolved from a simple "ew" to its full realization of depravity, desecration, and abuse. As much as I respect the freedom of speech, the culture this represents and the acceptance we give it is something I will not stand for. It is a hollow, dark mockery of what love is.

So, this post is for my children, who will surely ask me about love one day (one day when she exists...) and I will give her a better answer than E. L. James did. 

My Dear Future Chiddens,

Love comes in many shapes and sizes. It comes in colours and styles. It's limitless in expression and selfless in its desires. It's funny, it's awkward, it's weird, it's wonderful.

You're going to have friends. Hopefully, you'll have lots of good friends. You might even have a best friend. I have a best friend.

Your auntie, Miranda

We've been through the days, lemme tell you. I hope you find a best friend as good as mine. Our love is downright sisterly. We do weird things to each other. We scare the crap out of each other. We make each other laugh. That's love. Love is making her talk so that she won't bottle. Love is when she calms you down when your anxiety levels his panic mode. Love is writing a book together and making a million inside jokes that literally, only you two understand. I hope you have a best friend that makes you tea and orders chinese takeout because you deserve that kind of love.

I hope you have lots of friends because then you'll have a big support group. I hope that they're all good to you and that they lift you up. Join a soccer team or get into theatre. I want you to have a family away from your family. One day, you'll go to college and it will be hard to wash your own socks. But if you go to rehearsal or practice every night and gets bruises, laugh, cry, scream and rage-vent, it better be with people you call your own.

bonus if they take creeper photos of you during rehearsal 

Kids, love is not learned outside. Love is not learned in the movies or the news or in books or in plays. It's learned inside, inside your own home. Home is a safe place for you to mess up. Home is where free food is. Home is protected and nonjudgmental. All of that is possible because home and family is built on the love of a bunch of goofballs. 

pictured: goofy goobers

You, my sweet turds, come from a long legacy of love (and weirdos). This is the kind of love that should be celebrated the most because it might be the most abused. We take each other for granted, yell at each other, push all the right buttons. But I have felt the most love come from our house. Home, so says the Family Proclamation, is a sacred place. Family is a sacred love. It's funny. It's hard sometimes. Familial love is the best kind of love because deep down, you know that no matter what happens, we're all stuck with each other and there's no hope of ever getting out. 

When you grow up and come back from your missions, maybe your father and I will have taught you enough about love that you'll go out and try to convince some poor innocent to stay by your side for better or for worst. This person will make you excited to go to Costco to do the most mediocre errands. You'll pay off student loans with this person. Buy a house with that person. I hope that happens. Because then you'll internalize what I've been trying to say this whole time. 

Never listen to the movies. Never take advice from the songs. Never assume that what you see on the stage is a depiction of true love. We've all been obsessed with love from the moment we knew what it was, but there haven't been many who've accurately represented it in popular media. If you want to know what love is, might I suggest prayer. 

You know where love comes from, right? It comes from God, who sent His son to pay our debt. A debt that we couldn't repay, a debt that would keep us away from our Father forever. Love comes from Christ asking forgiveness for the very people killing him. His love will answer your prayers in the middle of the night when I'm not there. His love will protect you from people that want to hurt your feelings. His love will guide you to the most beautiful places. It will turn you into a better person. One day, maybe we'll be able to love the way He loves.  

Kids, love is FULFILLING. And if the way someone makes you feel is anything but? It's not love. Sometimes, it's even abusive. It's ETERNAL, so you need to treat it well enough that it'll last that long. Love isn't just for Valentine's Day, it's for EVERY day. And I'll celebrate this insipid little holiday if it'll help you understand what love is.

Love, Your Future Mom 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Adventure Is Out There!

Well folks... It has come to this. I have not been looking forward to this. Ask anybody here in Arlington YSA and they'll tell you how much I DO NOT want to go home. Don't be surprised if I don't make it to their airport-- they probably kidnapped me. They've been making threats all week.
We had a great week! We met with our investigators and I'm happy to report that Sweet Soul and Weightless are back on track! They both had experiences where they realized they wanted CHANGE and that they were fed up with the ruts they were in. We also set TWO baptismal dates with our two new investigators from last week! YUSS. I don't care if ya sin so hard ya black out, if it makes you come back and change then AWESOME. Without being casual, that's what the Atonement's for. That's why we have a Savior. So that we can change and move on. Doesn't matter how far you've fallen, you CAN (and WILL, if I have anything to say about it!!) get back up. Is the Atonement infinite? Or is it infinite???
So, this is my last email as a tagged missionary. Come Thursday, I'm gonna take my nametag off (read: Pres. Houston will have to tackle me to the ground and wrestle it from me) and that's gonna be about the only thing that'll change. Oh, well, I guess I'll start wearing pants again...
But I wanted to share with you (for those of you who've never heard it) my personal testimony story. So, yes, this will be a hecka long email, but go big or go home right? (haha..................... wait.)
There was a point in my life (circa high school) when I became spiritually Less Active. I went to church cuz that was the Gunson house rules but I never read my scriptures and I never prayed. I slowly started slipping until I just didn't... care anymore. My parents tried to intervene, but no matter what spiritual experience I had, it never STUCK. This all started when I had tried to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and didn't get an answer back. I was like "what the heck, man?? I thought there was a promise in here!!" This went on for I want to say maybe 2 and a half years or so... And that's when I was like "this is stupid. This is ridiculous. I'm gonna read the Book of Mormon." I was angry and sad and grumpy all the time, I fought non-stop with my family, just wasn't fun. I remembered all the many blessings my father had given me, telling me to JUST READ THE BOOK OF MORMON. If I did that, I would be safe. So, I picked it up and decided I was gonna read a chapter every night. A week later, I started praying every night AND reading every night. And within just barely under a month, things turned around.
So that's how I got my testimony. But my conversion story is my mission. I knew this stuff was true and out here, I got to apply it. This mission has been the making of me, the sanctifying of me, the burning-away-a-bunch-of-dumb-stuff in me, and now having completed a full and fruitful mission, I can say that IT IS ME. I can say that the scripture that told me to go on a mission(Jacob 5:75) wasn't just a prompting but a prophecy. I have received a GREAT joy in my service. So much joy that the first 15 minutes of my studies this morning was  bawl-praying my thanks to Heavenly Father for letting the ultimate goober serve a mission. Thank GOODNESS He took that chance on me.
What have I learned? I have learned that God lives! God is my HEAVENLY FATHER, who loves me with a depth I cannot comprehend. He has watched over me and those I love carefully and mercifully. He's never let me out of His sight or out of His arms. And I will always have that relationship and nothing can take that away from me. I have learned that Jesus IS the Christ! His Atonement is INFINITE, people!! He can change ANYONE who is willing to listen and willing to ACT. No matter how black the Friday, Sunday ALWAYS comes because of Him. I know that Joseph Smith was a man of God and has done more for me than any other latter day prophet-- maybe more than any prophet! The Book of Mormon is the word of a LOVING God who would never let His children live in darkness unless they chose to. It is relatable to me and to my day and time. I have learned to be holy, to be sanctified, to put off the natural man and to ditch old habits and old personalities in favor of my eternal personality. I have learned to LOVE. Brothers and Sisters, friends, family, people I don't yet know and even my enemies, LOVE CONQUERS ALL. It trumps everything and anyone who tries to bring you down. I know how much the Savior loves me because He has allowed me to love YOU. And He has shown me the proper way to do so.
I had my exit interview on Saturday and I received an incredible blessing. In that blessing, I was given a clear vision of what I need to do. It wasn't specific-- I still have various ideas about which major and I don't know my husband's name or where I'm gonna live-- but I know who I am and I know God's plan. And I will be walking confidently into the future as a woman of God and a disciple of Christ.
Last thought: I had been scared of transitioning. I was scared because I was like "I need something to work towards, I'm not gonna have a vision, no accountability, AHHHHH" but then I read Chapter One of Preach my Gospel. There is nothing in that chapter that does not apply to every baptized member of Christ's church. Especially Page 10-- where every missionary looks to make sure they're doing their job right. That's where every member needs to be looking to know if they're living up to their baptismal covenants, honestly. In that last blessing, it was promised to me that I would continue my missionary work. And while I REALLY would like to put my name tag back on, I know that the world is my mission and you're all under my circle of influence, which makes YOU my area. So get ready to be spiritually edified, son, cuz I'm coming home!!
Love, Sister Hannah Gunson

Sunday, November 2, 2014


You know why you do your family hsitory work? When you know where you come from, lots of things make sense. We come from outspoken pioneer-missionaries with a big-- sometimes sassy-- mouths. Sayin' it like it is since... whenever we joined the church. (Another reason why you do family history work? Exact dates.)
So this week was better. Life wouldn't be life without its trials! It adds salt.
GOOD NEWS: ED AND WOAH GOT BAPTIZED ON SATURDAY!! They shared a program! And it was so cool!!! Haha, Satan REALLY did not want that baptism to go down.... The master key did not work and when we tried to open the accordion doors so that the audience could see the baptism, that didn't work either. We waited for like 10 minutes while we got some stake member back-up who had a key. Woah popped her head out of the side door where she went through to get to the font and said "guys, I just want to be baptized! I promise!!" Bro. Reyes, the member that baptized her, kept saying "LIFE IS GREAT, LIFE IS AWESOME!" and it helped me relax a bit. Just gotta let stuff roll off your shoulders. They got baptized and confirmed and then later that Sunday, they both signed up to go on exchanges with us this week. Such spirits!
SIDE NOTE: Ed is from India and we looked up his home state and how the church is doing.... It's really cool. In India they mostly have little  branches of the church, but where Ed is from, they have a WARD. We got a little side-tracked and started looking at temples around the world... it is so cool. Ed's gonna go back to India and convert his family and friends and one day, we're gonna have a temple there. I also REALLY want to serve another mission when I get home... can I do that? I'm doing that. 14 year mission? Nobody misses me THAT much...
On the sad side... Sweet Soul and Weightless and Song aren't doing so well in their progression. The worst part is that they ALL know it's true, we know why they're not growing, THEY know why they're not growing.... and they still won't fight off the buffetings and temptations of Satan to experience the greater gospel light. Sweet Soul told us that he's trying to get his freedom.... And when we told him to read his scriptures, he read the chapter heading only and then wondered why he didn't feel better. When I asked him why he didn't read more, he said that a missionary in the past told him to take baby steps. And now he was using that as a crutch.
Well...... Baby steps didn't cross the Delaware. Baby steps didn't break down the Berlin Wall. Baby steps won't fight off Satan. True, by small and simple means are great things brought to pass... but chapter headings do not exactly divide asunder the cunning wiles of the devil.

I'm reminded (once again) of my own personal search for truth. I wanted freedom from darkness SO BADLY, I accepted the terms the Lord gave me.
The Lord has never asked for a grand show-- just to take 7 baths in the Jordan river, or to look up at a snake on a stick. NOT THAT HARD.  (Janet's note:  these are references from the Old Testament.  Stories of faith and healing.)
I went on an exchange with my Sister Training Leader and we visited a less active sister. She had texted us the night before, saying that something had bugged her, so she spent an hour in the scriptures trying to figure it out and would like to go back to church some day. We ran over that morning and invited her to share... she had an experience a lot like one I had had before.
She wanted faith. She wanted to pray. She wasn't praying because she felt turned away. She felt denied because she was listening to that enemy of us all who told her she was a disappointment. My STL and I teared up. I felt such a swell of love for her. And I told her with absolute conviction that Jesus, as the Christ, loves her. And there's nothing she can do to stop that love. Pharisees tried that already-- worked out GREAT, wouldn't you say?
I'm grateful for the experiences that gave me such conviction. Even now, coming out of a brutal week, I'm able to look at this sister in the eye and tell her that once she finishes her repentance process, she'll KNOW with unshakable faith that the Atonement is REAL. Because I know.
I'm re-reading the Book of Mormon (like ya do..) and when I got to Alma 26, I prayed to know why this chapter hits my mom so hard. She'd told me the story before, but I'd forgotten details. I still don't know her experience, but I know what it means to me.  (Second Janet's note:  Go read it!  It is the most motivating, joyful chapter!)

"... this is my LIFE and my LIGHT, my JOY and my SALVATION, and my REDEMPTION from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God who has been mindful..."
This gospel is freedom. This gospel means the world to me. I love the Book of Mormon. I wish I could give you my testimony so you would know exactly how I feel.... but honestly, if you're curious about how I feel, the Lord can show you. Just ask the missionaries-- they can help.
Love, Sister Gunson

Sunday Will Come Oct. 20, 2014

Before I say anything more, you need this talk: It's Sunday Will Come and it's my favorite.
I told Aunt Judy I'd email this story today. This one comes from Euless, my first transfer training. It's famous around my companions... really anyone I serve around. They've probably heard me say things like "well, I prayed for it, so it'll happen!" or "PRAY FOR IT" and this is that story:
I was having a really hard time. I was stressed and exhausted and all I wanted was chocolate. Not a lot, just something sweet, all to myself. And so, in passing, I said "Heavenly Father... you know what I want? I want chocolate." I felt this calming peace come over me.... and I KNEW I was getting chocolate by the end of that day. I waited through sacrament, I waited through Sunday School, I waited through Relief Society and I was unphased. I was getting my chocolate!

Well, our dinner appointment cancelled, but because he's awesome, he was like "no, sisters, you're not going hungry, I'm packing ya some sack lunches." He drops em by and I dump mine out and the last thing in that bag were 2 chocolate coins. Not a lot-- just enough. I stared at those 2 coins and was like "GOD LIVES!!!" I called the member to share the miracle and he said "weirdest thing happened, sister. I was making your lunches and I felt prompted to look in the freezer. I NEVER look in the freezer-- but I did. Saw those. Dropped em in your bag. What do ya think of that?"

So I've told every companion that. And they know that when I pray for something... I get it.
This week was surprisingly hard. The fear and stress of going home compounded with some brutal attacks by the adversary knocked me flat on my back in some kind of spiritual panic attack. I don't want to dwell on that because there were certain "pray-for-chocolate" miracles that ensued.
The first is that I got to see my Aunt, Judy this week. She's the first piece of family I've seen in a year and a half. And I was SO GLAD to have some support. I'm never alone in a mission of 270+ missionaries. But... having family gives you that boost.

Second, Friday, when I was having a REALLY rough day, one of my old STL's happened to pop up in the church building where Sister Nielson and I were. She had gone home in April, but came back to live in Southlake. As she was walking down the hallway, I had this feeling of "HOLD ON. HELP IS COMING." and after we caught up, I asked for her advice and sure enough, strength and refreshment came.
Third, we went to our mission-wide fireside (where we get to bring all our gators to meet President) and we brought Weightless. Well... Recent Convert Best Friend from Lantana and Awesomeness from Euless were there. And guess what? I had been praying that Weightless would get to talk to them because they both struggled with some things prior to their baptism that she's going through right now.

I wish to tell you more, but I'll be seeing y'all in a couple of weeks anyways, you'll get more stories. But I want everyone to know that Sunday comes. Chocolate gets dropped into your lunch sack. A member makes you fajitas and pie for dinner on a really bad day. And an investigator affirms your spiritual power. You have to find the good things and be optimistic and it's so hard to do that and I'm not perfect at it. But good grief, do we believe in an infinite Atonement and an all-powerful God or don't we??
My heart has been made tender. It's all squishy and stuff, so I'm gonna get off because that's just sick and ain't nobody wanna listen to a sensitive sister hehe....
Love y'all!
Sister Gunson