Thursday, May 16, 2019

Just Take The Next Step!

The only thing that is consistent in life is change. 

Isn't that great?!

Especially if you find yourself sitting next to that obnoxiously loud open-mouth breather on an overnight flight. Or, you're babysitting your 8 month old niece and she gets that suspicious look of relief on her tiny face and suddenly you...catch a whiff. 😲 

If whatever situation you're in that you find a lil' hard to endure or that stinks, rest assured that we don't have to endure it forever. Time marches on. The plane will eventually land and we take the necessary and albeit uncomfortable steps to roll up our sleeves and change the stinky diaper. (Literally or metaphorically speaking). These little situations, by the nature of time or by our own two hands, can change.

I worked for a great company for almost 7 years. Ever since I shook hands with the President and VP of Sales on the day of my interview, I knew they were men I could A) Get along well with, and B) Trust. 

I accepted the job and was thrown into an industry I knew nothing about. To say my learning curve was like hiking to Everest Base Camp in flip-flops is a colossal understatement. Imagine being carried over the ocean by helicopter and you're dropped into the eye of the storm! Spoiler Alert: The ONLY thing you have to keep you afloat is an inflatable Unicorn pool toy. 

Bombs Away! 

Yet, I kept going. Kept learning and growing in my knowledge and my skill set. Day in and day out brought a lot of good times and a lot of frustrations. There were set-backs and slamming of doors. There was laughter and high-fives. There were days I was so busy I would just sit back and stare at it all; frozen, not knowing what to tackle first. There were days the company faced tragedy and days I was happily distracted by 90's R&B or running through the sprinklers. 

(Hey, we all let off a little steam at work in our own way, okay?!) 

Some days were just on-point and I was walking on water. The pool floaty had turned into a speed boat and I was the Captain! 

This job helped me discover just how fast time could go by and how I was constantly racing the clock to get my long list of tasks done. I would look at the clock and it would say: Monday 9:17 am. I would then take a sip of Diet Coke, blink and look down at the clock again: Thursday 4:45 pm! 

It's the only job I had that I wished time would slow down. Weird!

Be that as it may, I was now part of a family. A strange, dedicated, mismatched family. I created professional relationships with people I normally would never have found. And for that I am forever grateful. They are some of the smartest, weirdest, most loyal people I have ever rubbed shoulders with.

It was because of this company, I had the opportunity to move to Colorado. Ahh, yes. Colorful Colorado! Home of flannel shirts, the Rocky Mountains and the Denver Broncos! 

Colorado, from the get go was something I knew was a good idea. You know that feeling you get deep down in your gut that is so unmistakable you can't deny it? You literally can see the stars aligning right before you? Man, I love that. That was this move to Colorado. Never a doubt in my mind. From the moment I said, "Yes" to the universe unfolding opportunity in front of me- to a short six week later when I opened the door to my new downtown apartment, I knew that this was going to be a grand adventure!  

I also knew that my job transfer was merely the vehicle to get me to Colorado. Not the reason. I knew the reason was so much bigger than an 8 to 5 gig. I didn't know how, but I knew it would eventually become clear. One small step at a time.

 Did I roll into town as the newest inhabitant of Colorado on that hot day in June, and see a banner of glitter letters stretched across Mile High Stadium that said, "Welcome To Denver, Ms. Worlton! Enjoy your stay!?"


I was scared, overwhelmed and completely turned around. And to top it off, I got chased by a homeless man in a flooded parking lot my first day! 

It felt like someone had taken my life that was settled and secure inside a cute little gift shop snow globe and gave it a right good shake up! The snowflakes were spinning and the weather forecast showed hazardous blizzard conditions of biblical proportions. Gusts of wind and snowfall were coming down from the Rockies at very uncomfortable speeds. Record ice and sleet were beating down in unpredictable patterns. Snow tires as well as hefty amounts of Diet Coke and calls to my Mom were recommended for survival!

It all had to figure out where to land again. The snowflakes that needed to find a new place to land were my job, my friends, church, neighborhood, dating, grocery stores and street names. All of it. And let me tell ya, that took a lot longer than I wanted it to. 

Hang on! I felt it down in my gut that this was the right change to make! Didn't that mean I was setting myself up for endless sunshine and rainbows? 

Oh, Sarah. You're funny!

In time, I found my tribe. You know who you are! The reset in the Rockies has created several chances for me to take new steps in new places with new wonderful people. 

New Years Eve spent at a Thai restaurant in the little town of Ouray made me laugh harder than I thought was humanly possible. A meltdown due to sheer physical exhaustion on the side of a mountain caused tears to fall with more intense emotion than I knew I had the capacity to release. I spent time at the theater and time around a camp fire. All of these moments and discoveries were all part of the process of settling in and finding ME again. It took two solid years for that damn snow to find its new normal. 

(Queue John Denver and turn it up nice and loud!) 

I worked for my company for over two years here in Mile High. It truly was a great experience now that I had made it to Base Camp and could breathe again. I loved working with all men and I loved having puppies come into the office everyday. On a rare occasion the dogs would out-number the humans and that was just silly! Still, I felt comfortable, respected and trusted....not just by the Labradoodle named Curly, but by my cherished Denver colleagues.  

And life continues to do its thing, doesn't it? It senses that you're maybe a little too comfortable. I started to get the sense that the snow globe was due for another shake up. This time, I had my Columbia puffy coat zipped up and Mom was on speed dial. I was ready for it!

 It was through a major change in our company structure and culture that caused me to take a nice long look at my position there. Was I happy? Truly happy in my heart? Could I see myself working there for the next 5 months? 5 weeks? 5 days? After a lot of time on my knees and talks with trusted family members and friends, I knew that the answer across the board was No. 

I met an individual during this personal "Come to Jesus" time who has reached the summit of all 58 of the mountain peaks here in Colorado that are known as 14'ers. My Colorado readers know what I'm talking about and know what a big deal this is. It's a right of passage here to climb a 14'er. And, hold your applause, I've hiked a grand total of ONE 14'er. And I about died.  

To meet someone who has climbed them all, my hat goes off. He said that there was one phrase that he would tell his fellow climbers at the beginning of each big hike. He would tell them to "just take the next step." 

As simple as that sounds, that was the phrase that I needed to hear during this critical time. Those simple words were driven directly to my soul and filled it with light. Sarah, don't take the next 27 steps. That is way too overwhelming. Just take the next step. And after that, take the next step. It gave me courage to do what I needed to do. 

It was time to start fully showing up for myself and find the next layer of who I really am. I had some pretty profound moments of transformation that made it clear that I needed to step onto a new career path. One that helped my true voice be heard. To find the next big reason why I was here in Colorado, I needed to embrace and lean into change. 

And that meant saying goodbye to these remarkable men (even years later) I trusted, the puppies, the late night jam sessions to 90's R&B. It meant saying goodbye to the weirdos I had worked with who were now my family. I needed to just take the next step. 

So, I took a deep breath and I did it. I quit. I left with my head held high and the world of opportunities open before me. Was it brave? Was it foolish? You can be the judge of that. All I know is that life requires you to dare greatly and to be true to yourself.  

Does this mean that my path is magically lit all the way to retirement? Not a chance. There are stones yet to be overturned. There are lights still to be turned on.  There are walks that will be taken in the dark. The unknown and change can be scary. But the discovery. Oh, it can be so sweet. 

The End. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Are You Happy In Your Heart? (Lessons learned along the village path)

Last December, my darling friend and soul sister, Christina Clow asked me if I would speak at a singles fireside about my experiences doing humanitarian work and the lessons learned along the way. I, of course, said YES! I love public speaking and having a captive audience listen to me blather on about my one true passions in life for an hour? SIGN.ME.UP! 

It was a thrilling and nostalgic invitation to take a deep long look at the past T E N years of my life and really figure out what it was that I have learned. How I have changed for the better and for good (Thanks, Wicked!) What was it about those bumpy cattle truck rides and cement mixing that taught me valuable life lessons that would etch so deeply on my soul? The cold showers at night, humid hair/don't care mornings, doing dishes out of wheelbarrow in the rain, discovering spiders in unlikely places,  stinky latrines that were occupied by wild turkeys all meant something profound, right? What was it?! 

After taking time to sift through about 1200 photos and endless journal pages, I started to really piece it together. It's an interesting thing to look at the past decade of your life and put it down on paper. Some memories made me smile and I could recall every last detail down to the bugs on the leaves. Some memories were down-right painful and were a little more difficult to unpack again. None the less, they all were part of the story. Of MY story. 

February 10, 2019  rolled around and with my amazing sister squad, Mary and Shelly in the crowd, here is what I had to say about it all. It was red-letter moment and I was so blessed to be able to share something that means so much to me with dear friends and peers here in Denver, Colorado. Something that I will forever bow my head in gratitude for. 

Good Evening Brothers and Sisters. I am very happy to be here with you this evening. I thank you and honor you for being here tonight in our little village of Denver, Colorado. Brought together NOT by chance, but by divine purpose.

 I am excited to share some of my stories that are near and dear to me and have shaped the person I am today. These vignettes have weaved in and out of my life and have strengthened my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in very simple and profound ways. They have opened my eyes and forever cemented my testimony that God truly loves and is mindful of all his children.

I am humbled to share my personal convictions of how each of us can find happiness in our hearts and how the Savior can personally teach us along our life path. I know that by seeking out his guidance and with his help, YOU can find what that individually means for you. 

I was asked to share with you what I’ve learned along my village path and the rich experiences I’ve had doing humanitarian expeditions around the world. Little did I know that I’d go from participating in them to eventually leading and facilitating them for others.

Over the past decade, the villages in Mexico, Guatemala and Nepal have been my classroom and I have learned great lessons from their vistas, beautiful people, trenches and tin roofs what finding happiness in my heart means for me.

I promise not to keep you here too long. And if I do, I have given Sister Christina Clow permission to start playing the theme music and then gently fade the cameras out and cut to commercial. 

To illustrate how I arrived at this particular belief, is important for me to offer some proper context to my story. And That means taking a brief yet meaningful dive into the past.

So, let’s start from the beginning, which the beloved Fraulein Maria from the Sound of Music tells us, is a very good place to start! 

Rest easy! We are not going as far back as Genesis chapter 1 when God created heaven and earth, but a short 10 years ago in 2009.

I was living within the shadows of our Nation’s Capital in Northern Virginia. I was active in institute classes, my calling at church. I always had fun things cooked up with good friends and I often would drive into the city to see my sister and adorable nieces.

 It was about this time that my good friend Tyler informed me of a humanitarian trip later that summer that he was cooking up. He was actively recruiting me well as any LDS single people our age from coast to coast. Working professionals with time to spare and money to burn.

 As much as I loved Ty, I must be honest, I thought this idea sounded stupid. My current attitude and opinion of the whole thing is that it sounded contrived and was one that I stuck my nose up at. I thought that it sounded like Adult EFY goes to Central American. No Thanks!

As the weeks went on, I started to feel pangs of discontentment. My job wasn't going that great and I felt a little stuck in where I was in life. I was craving something more meaningful. I had been to singles conferences, vacations to Spain and Puerto Rico,  beach weekends in the Outer Banks and Presidential Inaugurations.

I really had fun life and had a full calendar, but I couldn't ignore that my soul felt a little dim.  I remember having moments of introspection and heart felt talks with my Mom. I would tell her that I was at a crossroads and I needed something more.

"There is a group that is going to Guatemala this summer on a humanitarian trip. Maybe I should look into it.”  Like any major decision in life, it requires a pro/con list, fasting and prayer. 

I fasted the next day. I was praying to know if this was the right thing for me to do. I could feel the ice around my heart start to melt and the chips on my shoulder start to crumble. 😊
After a fasting for a few hours, I got my answer as clear as day, "Sarah, you can stop fasting now. This is a no-brainer!" 

I felt nothing but peace.

I quickly on the phone and called Tyler. "Ty. It's Sarah. So, don't laugh but I have a question. Is it too late to sign up for the Guatemala trip?" 

After listening to him snicker on the other end of the phone, he said "Well, Well, Well, look who had a change of heart.” He informed me that it was NOT too late and he would be thrilled to have me on the trip. 

I got my paperwork done, paid my money and in early August of that year I was on a southbound plane. Headed on an adventure to Guatemala ready to have this service experience and had no clue that this would change my life forever.

Willing yet totally naive, I had my bug spray, head lamp and rubber boots packed, not knowing what was to lie ahead. I had been told by a host of family and friends to "Have fun." and "Don't drink the water!"

I landed in Guatemala City and met all of those coast to coast recruits who were joining the trip. My head was spinning. Where was I? Who were all these people? How is this all going to work? Who is CHOICE Humanitarian again? I was prepared physically but all of that prep work seemed to float  away when we loaded up on a bus for the 10 hour ride to very remote area in Guatemala called The Polochic Valley- where thousands of native  Mayan Quechi people were living in extreme poverty .

We were going to be working on sustainable development projects with an organization called CHOICE Humanitarian. CHOICE Humanitarian and what they are all about...we'll get back to that in a moment….

The paved roads quickly disappeared and turned into uneven dirt as we ascended up into the mountains and driving through a blanket of clouds.

My eyes were fixed out the window and I was soaking it all up like a sponge. The rolling lush hills, the were AMAZING.  Almost Heavenly. The higher I’d go up, now riding on the top of a small chicken bus, the more I would start to the inhabitants of this area appear on the side of the dirt road.

 I’d see women in native dresses carry a bowl of freshly ground tortilla dough on their heads and was amazed at their balance. I’d see little families walking together.
The homes were humble and would be made from wood or sticks and would have tin roofs with a smoke coming out from a fire. Pigs, dogs and chickens would roam freely.

Kids would run out to see this bus of Rowdy awe-struck Americans zip by and were excited to welcome us to their village. With every bumpy turn, my mind was blown at the beauty of the lush mountain side and the beauty of the people.

It's funny how a new place signal itself without warning or pretense. The new air I felt on my skin carried a different weight. The wind that brushed past my face had a unique smell that I couldn't quite identify. We would drive by and as I would wave to my new “neighbors” I couldn't help but wonder, "Do these homes have an address?" "Do they get mail." I had no idea that people L I V E D in this area of the world. My mind was getting cracked wide open. 

As we would wave to people we would pass by - we would shout out a Quechi phrase that we had been taught is how you say hello. The phrase is “Ma Sa La Cho’l.” Now that is a mouthful, I know. It took me about 3 days to memorize and I’m still not entirely sure how to spell it. The literal translation of this phrase means, “Are you Happy in your Heart?” Isn’t that incredible? In America we say, “Hello, how are you?” And the typical response is, “Fine.” And we go on our way. Unaffected by the interaction that just happened.

Here, in this mountain oasis I had just stumbled into, the greeting goes directly to the root. The life-source; the heart. It is a question that I would like each of you to ask yourself right now.  “Are you happy in your heart? And what does that exactly mean for you?

CHOICE Humanitarian stands for the center for humanitarian outreach and inter-cultural exchange. For over 30 years they have been working to eliminate extreme poverty in 7 countries around the world. Their goal is to trust the poor and train them to be leaders in their communities and into taking ownership with their own self-sustaining development. They boldly declare that extreme poverty is inexcusable and must be eliminated. Their vision is a world free from the ravages of poverty and where all people are treated with dignity and valued at what they bring to their unique circumstances. They promote development NOT relief.

They go past the quick fix and go straight to the root. CHOICE is about building people, not projects. They focus on teaching a man to fish instead of just giving them a fish…only to see him come back a short time later, hungry for more.

Now, this isn’t a shameful plug to get you to go on a CHOICE expedition. It is rather to illustrate a point that the very CHOICE model of development can be used when we look at how to be truly happy on our individual lives. How we can go beyond the quick fixes and the surface level happiness. The dollar menu happiness. And how we can stop putting our lasting happiness in the hands of someone else.

The first lesson I have learned is that you can be happy in your heart is when we are in THE SERVICE OF OTHERS.

We read in the Book of Mormon that “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” Serving a full-time mission was not in the cards for me, and I testify that a Loving Heavenly Father knew that THIS type of service was more “me” and it was one that I could find great happiness in doing while serving his Children in these 3rd world villages.

I loved getting up every day, putting on my rubber boots and gloves, drenching myself in bug spray and going to work. My office was a construction site and my co-workers were fellow villagers and volunteers. My view were the trees and the morning commute was in a cattle truck.

We’d load up with our shovels and pick axes and ride like a “local” to the neighboring villages to get to work. I never knew what a slow, painful process it is to mix cement by hand! I would work in the sweltering heat, intense wind and pouring rain. I never have been so dirty and sweat would sometimes drip down my face in my eyes, and yet none of that seem to matter.

While I was on the project site, I was forgetting myself and focusing outward! Everything back home that would weigh heavily on my mind or I would get so fixated on, was put on the back burner. I sometimes would forget it completely. My goal and top priority while in the village was to serve in any way I could find.  And sometimes, that meant putting the shovel down and have a Marimba lesson with Santiago.

Or teach a Zumba dance to your group! 

Or painting the fingernails of the little girls in the village. 

I learned that this type of connection/service was just important.

 I can still hear the whispers of the little girls when they would talk rapidly in their native language just inches from my face while they crowded around to get their nails painted. The girls and their language were all so foreign and yet at the same time, alarmingly familiar. My ears couldn’t understand them. My heart did. It was an example that meaningful service and connection can go beyond a language barrier.

Sometimes, I would see the local men carry a collection of about 50 pieces of wood, using a make-shift sling that would go around their foreheads putting all of the weight on their heads and take off.  I’d see little village boys push a wheel- barrel full of dirt up a steep hill like it was NOTHING!  I would see women carry bricks in one hand and a baby in another or climb a tree barefoot in a dress to get oranges. I would see men half my height and twice my age carry a bag of sand that was well over 100 pounds and barely break a sweat The physical strength of both the men and the women was impressive. And here I was, carrying a cinder block 50 yards and would need to stop to catch my breath like a total wuss.

I have to admit, my exposure to this type of work was zero. I felt a little silly at how weak I seemed at the construction site; like my contribution wasn’t doing any good. Never would the phrase “The spirit is willing; but the flesh is weak” be so true.  It is our culture to weigh success and productivity with something we can see and measure.

 Here, I had to remember that any bit of service was enough. I had to remember what we read in D&C 64:33 “Wherefore, be not weary in well doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “We are happiest when our lives are connected to others through unselfish love and service. There is no greater blessing, no greater joy and happiness that comes to us than from relieving the distress of others.”

 I would add that the distress in others is more often that not, that which we cannot see.

I was feeling happiness in my heart because there was an unmistakable sense of a unity with the group I would work with. All titles, statues, resume points personal politics that can sometimes divide us seemed to all melt away. We were celebrating humanity. Nothing more. Nothing less. It was a beautiful lesson to me that service can erase our pride and I could not ignore that us and it sure made my heart swell with happiness.  When we willingly serve others in the spirit of love, we become more like Christ.

 I would come back to our “home base” each night covered in dirt, mud, gravel and who knows what? I was sweaty, sometimes had bruises and every muscle was sore. I was completely exhausted and completely happy.

I spent the majority of the week on my first trip to Guatemala on a construction site that was going to be the first secondary school in the village of Sajonte. The week was spent digging trenches, moving rocks, tying re bar and all the while, belting out Broadway show tunes! At the end of the long week, the foreman, Valerio, saw that we had some extra cement and got an idea. He took the cement and formed a heart and had each of us who worked on the site put our names on the heart. I loved this. It’s like a part of me never left. It was a symbol that our hearts were being left there; and our efforts and the experience of serving were cemented together in the spirit of unity and Love. Later that year, they made the heart into a memorial bench. I found so much happiness in knowing that the memorial bench would sit outside a school house for the next 10 years!

I have learned that we can be happy in our hearts when we are FREE FROM DISTRACTIONS AND ARE PRESENT.

The world can be a very noisy place. It is full of alerts, notifications and updates. It can tear us away from things that matter most. Our family, our gospel study and our work. We live to post and post to live. I get it. I do it all the time. I have been known for my witty hashtags. Sometimes I think the two most important people in my life are Siri and Alexa.

We live a head down, screens up society. This is our reality and whether we notice it or not, it can do a lot of good and also a lot of harm. We want likes, comments, re-tweets and we want millions. We post our adventures our amazingness, happy news and our “Hey, Look at me!” We can easily fall down the rabbit hole and land into a dizzying social media vortex and get caught up in who is doing what and why don’t my cupcakes look as good as her cupcakes? And, why didn’t I think of that clever holiday hashtag like that girl I met once posted. Oh, what was her name again?

 Without blinking an eye, hours have gone by and we are still glued.  I am just as guilty and I can tell you that it a slippery slope laced with comparison and judgment. And we all know that comparison can be a thief of joy.

President Nelson said “Happiness and meaning come from avoiding distraction.”

In June 2018, President Nelson encouraged the youth to engage in a 7-day social media fast. He invited them to disengage from the constant reliance on social media and shift their focus. He asked the youth that during those days to pay attention to how they felt, what did you think about and how did you think. What difference did you notice and what things did you notice you needed to start and stop doing?

This is SO true and I testify that this was a divine invitation.

Village life is one that allows you to hit the reset button. To free yourself from distractions and deadlines of daily life. People would often ask me what day of the week it was and I would honestly answer, “I think it’s Wednesday. I’m not sure.” “What time is it, Sarah?” And I would answer honestly again, “Well, we just had lunch and the sun is over there…and so let’s say around half past “Does it really matter?”

It’s amazing to me when you take all of the noise and hit MUTE, you find out a lot about yourself and I truly believe it is a time when the Lord can speak to your mind and heart.  When I was total present, I would notice that some things would bubble to the surface now that there was room for it. It was in those clear moment that I could feel like those on the other side of the veil were with me telling me what I needed to hear in that moment.

Village life runs on a very loose schedule. It invites flexibility and mindfulness. I was unplugged from my regular schedule and I was allowing my mind to un-wind. And let me tell you, in these remote areas, the internet is not a thing.  In some places, neither is electricity. You do not have a TV giving you the latest CNN updates or football game scores. You didn’t have your phone ping every 10 second. Instead you have games. Idea sharing. You had laughter, conversation and organic connection where you get to know a person for who they really are.  It felt so nice to just talk to someone. To just be present. To see things for what they are in the exact moment it was happening. No facades. No filters.

On a choice expedition to Nepal, I found myself walking down a crowded street in Kathmandu on Christmas Day. When all of the sudden thousands of people all dressed up started marching down the street. They were playing their drums, spinning plates using long wooden poles, chanting, singing and burning incense. They also were tossing flower pedals to the on-lookers. Who were these people? It was an unexpected parade. It was amazing. And what do you think the first thing I did when I saw this happening? Yep, you guessed it. I reached in my big red purse and pulled out my phone. THIS, I have to document. And right at that moment, my phone died.

I watched the whole parade with my own two eyes and I am happy to report I have no photographic evidence of that moment. It was mine and mine alone. And it was one that will never happen again. I was happy in my heart because I was blessed to witness a very unique moment; and having a dead phone turned out to be a gift.

While in Guatemala a month and a half ago, I found myself in a house with a dirt floor and we were helping with a stove project. I was taking a break and was looking around the home. I noticed that the roof and wall were separated along one side of the house, allowing the sunlight to come in. I looked through it and the light was coming in at just in the right angle that I noticed a huge black widow spider spinning its web. If I saw a spider in my house, I would scream and kill it immediately.

But I just gazed on at this diligent spider and watched it do its thing. It was beautiful. It would go around and around creating its web with perfect symmetry and precision. The web looked like a quilt that was perfectly back-lit.  I was mesmerized for a solid 10 minutes.  Completely entertained, by a spider.

Mother Teresa said, “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

President Thomas S. Monson has taught us that ’Sometimes we let our thoughts of tomorrow take up too much of today. Daydreaming of the past and longing for the future may provide comfort but will not take the place of living in the present. This is the day of our opportunity, and we must grasp it.”
It is our choice to be no only be present when the noise of life is “out of range”, but to be intentionally present with our families, our gospel study and our work!
After spending a week in the village ,I would ask people how it felt spending a week unplugged. How it was that Facebook, emails and Youtube was ignored. I would ask each person if they had missed it. Without fail, the response would be “No. I didn’t miss it one bit.” REAL friendships were formed and I truly felt happy in my heart.
I have learned that we can be happy in our hearts even When things don’t go as planned and we get hurt!
We have all had things go unplanned in our lives in one way or another.  No matter how carefully and methodically and diligently we plan it out. Whether it be your college education, relationships, jobs, a vacation, we at some point had an idea of how we wanted or expected things to happen. And then, life happened. You got sick. You celebrated yet another year being single. You broke up. You missed your flight. You went to a different college and majored in English Lit instead of Law. Your marriage ended. Someone else got the job you wanted.
Bishop W. Christopher Wadell said, ”We cannot control all that happens to us, but we have absolute control over how we respond to the changes in our lives.”

Ever since I first met Bishnu Adhikari, the CHOICE In-Country Director in Nepal, and he bowed his head and said Namaste, I wanted to go to Nepal. I was just fascinated by him and the culture. Bishnu is one of the small handful of Christians in Nepal and who, as an adult, joined the LDS Church. You may know him from the movie, “Meet the Mormons.” 
I had a conversation with him at a fundraising gala that went like This. With all the sincerity I could muster I said, “Bishnu. I would so LOVE to come visit you in your country someday.” His response, “Sarah, what can I do to make that happen?” I said, “You can pray that I can somehow afford to come to Nepal someday.” I felt the love of a brother when he said, “That I will most certainly do!’
Fast forward a few years later. I was now a CHOICE expedition leader and was campaigning pretty hard to go Nepal and work with Bishnu and the team there. I guess his prayers were starting to be answered. But my dream was potentially going to crumble when I read in horror that Nepal got hit with a massive earthquake.
I stood in my kitchen and trolled the internet with a racing heart trying to find out ANYTHING that would let me know if the CHOICE TEAM, were Ok. And once they were able up get a faint internet connection, Bishnu, checked in as safe. I cried a LOT of tears of gratitude that day.
Grateful that they were Ok, I started to realize that perhaps this dream of going to Nepal was quickly turning into a nightmare and I had assumed that CHOICE wouldn’t be able to go there for several years now. There was way too much damage.
But then I remembered, that this team had been taught how mobilize with its community to be self-sustained. Despite the damage, they would have a period of re-building and keep their vision of ending extreme poverty beating strong.

A few months later, miraculously, I got on the roster to be a leader for a Christmas expedition to Nepal.
After a long 22-hour flight, I set foot on uncharted ground. Breathing in the air that swept down from the Himalayas. Prayer flags were everywhere and I was humbled to be in this beautiful place; greeting people I’d meet by saying, “Namaste” Which means, the light in me, honors and recognizes the light in you.
I spent Christmas evening at Bishnu’s home with his family. And it’s important to note that the power throughout Kathmandu had been out for 14 straight days and he was lighting his home with solar power. That didn’t stop us from sitting  around his chilly living room and sang Christmas Carols. The power being out also didn’t stop his lovely wife Mungla from making us a delicious Nepali meal that included Chocolate Cake!!
The next day, we gathered the troops on the bus and we headed to the village. We would be working in a remote village in Lamjung on the reconstruction of a school house that was destroyed in the earthquake.
 I was so happy to be there and I knew that this long-anticipated trip would be an amazing one!

Day 1 working in the village was spent on working on preparing a foundation of the school house. Happily, I was moving rocks with some local women. I would ask them if their homes survived the earthquake and they responded with a single word. “Gone.” Everything they had was gone. They had to dust themselves and start again.
And here they were, teaching me how to count to 5 in Nepali and laughing hysterically at my eager attempts to say it right. It was a true example that you can be happy in any circumstance. Little did I know that this was something I would need to remember just hours later.
We got to the point where our next step was to form an assembly line and move a giant pile of rocks from one side to another. I was on top of a dirt mound and needed to jump the short distance down into the trench.
I did so, albeit with a little too much vigor, and landed on an uneven surface of rocks and dirt. I heard a loud popping sound in my knee and landed right smack on my behind. Not knowing that my ACL was now torn.
 Eyes were now fixed on their "fearless leader" and rushed over to me in my pathetic state to help. I was scared to move. An unknown hand help lift me off the ground. I inched my way to the edge of the trench, completely in denial, and was lifted out of and carried down to my sleeping bag, down the hill from the work site.
I was in probably the most physical pain I have ever been in. I immediately had a million thoughts race thru my mind: "Am I going to have to go home early? How bad is this really?  Why on EARTH did this happen here/now? The timing of this could NOT have been worse!  My Mom is going to DIE when she hears about this. You are the leader. They are depending on you to help facilitate and lead this experience. What are you going to do now?!"
The reality was I was on the other side of the world and I could barely walk. Was I happy in my heart at that moment? No, I was not. Not even a little bit. I was mad. I was homesick. I was hurt and I felt like I my Nepal experience had just been robbed from me.
Bishop Wadell also said, “Whatever change in life’s circumstance may come our way, and whatever unexpected path we may have to travel, how we respond is a choice. Turning to the Savior and grasping His outstretched arm is always our best option”
It was then that a  scripture came to mind: Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
After some heart felt prayers and a blessing, I decided to rally and finish the trip as best as I could. I needed to summon some inner strength and be of good courage and I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

The men in the village heard that I had gotten hurt. And while, necessity is indeed the mother of invention, they wanted to help. They cut down a tree branch, carved it, wrapped a bandanna around the top and wrote “Get well soon we love you” in Sanskrit. They made me THIS. A walking stick. I used this for the rest of the week. It helped me limp along to the work site and cheer people on as the worked. I would play music while they worked and would support from the sidelines. I would grab a few Nepali kids and we had a sunglasses photo shoot. I had to put my desire to get to work on the shelf and focus on what I COULD do.
New Year’s Eve rolled around and I was not about to sit and mope. Event my mobility was very limited, there was a celebration to attend filled with drums and dancing. I had to make the conscious choice that I was going  rally what I had and to be happy.  And that, sometimes, is exactly what each of us must do. We make the choice to dance on one foot.

This walking stick has become one of my most treasured processions. It is a symbol to me that we sometimes get hurt. Physically and emotionally hurt. That the unexpected happens- and that in our moments of greatest need, God sends people to help the injured of both body and spirit.  
I KNOW that when you are down in the trench, you literally feel like your world has ENDED and that you will never walk again. I get it. It’s dark and it’s sad. It hurts. After spending 2 weeks filled with Namaste- I was ready to NAMAS-GO!
I also know, that little by little, things can get better. We dust ourselves and begin again. We can make the choice to be happy. And sometimes, that takes  time.
It is up to us to allow ourselves to also receive service. To humbly realize that we cannot do it alone. By allowing others to serve us when the unexpected jolts of life knocks us off track, we are reminded that God is aware of all of his children. Of this, I have no doubt!
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said that “Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride”
With the entirety of the Nepal trip, I eventually found happiness in my heart because of this of this simply truth: “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
I have learned that we can be happy in our hearts when WE ARE ABLE TO CHANGE OUR PERSPECTIVE

When I was taken out of my comfort zone and regular routine and into a village, I would find myself noticing how the beautiful people in the village around me would naturally live their day to day lives. Everything from their dress to the way they looked, how they cooked and how they cleaned their clothes was so different from me.
They lived on less than a $1.90 a day and therefore, were defined as living in extreme poverty. I had come from a place where I was NOT living in extreme poverty.  They were short. I was tall. They had dark skin, I was white. They would wash their clothes by hand and I had a washing machine. It’s as if two polar extremes were pushed together to co-exist for a short time. To work together and to learn from one another.
Elder Craig W Zwick said, “We must look past the easy assumptions and stereotypes and widen the tiny lens of our own experience.”
Through every expedition, this would be a valuable life lesson I would learn and re-learn. To look at myself and the people around me through a different lens.  To not focus on what made us different. Each time, I was invited to explore a new perspective of happiness and well-being. What a blessing it can be when the spirit of the Lord can widen our view and teach us.
Consider for a moment the story that we read in 2nd Kings. Remember the prophet Elisha, who woke up to find the Syrian army surrounding his city with their horses and chariots?
His manservant was frightened and asked Elisha what they were going to do against such odds. Elisha told him not to worry and gave us the immortal words “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16).
The manservant had no idea what the prophet was talking about. He could not look beyond what he could see. However, Elisha saw battalions of angels prepared for battle. So Elisha prayed to the Lord to open the eyes of the young man, “and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).
In this story, Elisha’s manservant’s perspective got flipped on his head. He was able to see their circumstances in a whole new light. He saw something that he didn’t see before and that changed everything!!

I went into the village with an easy assumption that I clearly knew what poverty and wealth looked like and I thought it was pretty obvious. In my limited mind, I thought that I was the rich one, and they were the poor one. But then after spending some CHERISHED one-on-one time in the village, that all changed and I would like to show you how.
We each define poverty in different ways. Let’s explore what that could mean and how that can help us find happiness in our own lives.
1-    What does it mean to be poor? Give me a few words.
2-    What does it mean to be rich? Give me a few words.
3-    Is it possible that even the poor have a wealth? What could that be?
4-    Is it possible that the rich have a poverty? What could that be?
How do the wealth and the poverty of each group line up?
Is it possible that we can learn from each other and help alleviate each other’s poverty? Is it possible that what we thought was bringing us happiness was in fact not?
Elder Deiter F. Uchtdorf has said, “It is one of the great ironies of our age that we are blessed with so much and yet we can be so unhappy. Happiness does not come from external circumstances. It comes from the inside- regardless of what is happening around us."

In the villages in Mexico, Guatemala and Nepal, I saw those who seemingly had very little. They had limited access to clean water, schools and health care. But, what I saw once my eyes went beyond what I could see and my perspective changed, I saw a group of people who had a great wealth!
People who made a choice to dream up and plan for a better life within their own set of circumstances. I saw families who were proud of what they had. I saw those living at a slower pace. Connection to family, a sense of belonging. Your neighbor wasn’t your competitor, but your life-line and you brother. I saw that sometimes less is more. I saw, what I realized is true happiness.
I am forever grateful that the Lord was able to guide me along this path that has taken me to these remote areas of the world. What the Lord has taught me in the process about my life, about HIM and his children around the world are forever cemented on my heart.
Wherever we are on our own life path, here in our Village of Denver, CO, I testify that we can find true lasting happiness. I know that each day can have, learning and growth. I know that every switchback, bumpy ride in a cattle truck or tumble in a trench can have a divine purpose.
Make no mistake, that God, our loving Father in Heaven did not make a mistake when it came to you and your path. And he, who in the beginning created heaven and earth, the sun, moon and stars does not operate in the realm of Plan B when it comes to leading you along your path. This is your life and it is your choice to see it for what it truly is and how to be truly happy in it.
So, I would ask one more time:  Ma Sa La Cho’l? Are you happy in your Heart? I know you can be because the Savior Lives!

*Are You Happy In Your Heart?" is a new Podcast that I will be launching soon. Stay tuned for more stories that inspire happiness in everyday life!*