Friday, December 19, 2014

On Wednesday morning I woke up with no voice. Hoarse, sore, and miserable. Nothing was coming out. And I had a final at 2:30 that day that involved singing four songs. I think that perhaps for the first time I had a constant prayer in my heart. It was all I was thinking about and all I had was to pray, there was hardly anything else I could do.

I went very last. I thought maybe if I just had that much more time to drink water and suck on cough drops something would happen. I still felt awful when I stood up to sing, but when I opened my mouth, sound came out. It wasn't my best, but I sang. There were some spots where my voice just couldn't pull through but I actually sang much better than I would have on my first day of class this semester.

Prayer works.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Filling someone with false hope, to me, is worse than criticism. I can take criticism in stride and I'm mature enough to brush off criticism that is unfounded. I don't know what to do with a compliment that simply isn't true. It actually makes everything worse. It makes me expect more of myself than is necessary. It makes me constantly feel like I'm not living up to expectations. It makes me think that what I feel is invalid. And frankly, it gets old really fast. A compliment given just to make me feel better actually has exactly the opposite effect.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

For the first time since I was maybe...16 (?) ...I'm starting to feel insecure about the way I look.

I don't like it, but it's happening.

And I feel like all of these insecurities stem from external influences; things people tell me. But I've chosen to put myself around those influences and lay myself open to their judgement and am thus having oh so many doubts about my choices.

Oh Sister James, I have such doubts.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Women are just as capable of being predatory as men. Are they inherently predators? No. Neither are men.

Can we please make this about an act and not a gender? Sexual assault knows no gender. And it is wrong, completely regardless of the gender(s) of its participants. It is the act that needs to be decried, not half the population of the earth.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I am the Phantom of the community theater. I go see everything and vanish as soon as the lights go out to avoid any awkward hugging at the stage door.

People seem to want to hug me when I have atrocious breath and have just run out of mints.

I want to eat healthy but HATE shopping healthy.

I performed in three of my four classes today and OF COURSE the one I was least prepared for went the best. As in the teacher said "wow that was perfect" and then the one I prepared for got beat to smithereens.

The semester is almost half over and I'm not ready for that.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

So, I wanted to be all white-girl and keep a travelogue of my internship here and as you can see that didn't happen.

I guess me being in Japan doesn't really feel too much like a study abroad. It's more like coming to the other house. I'm with family, have been here plenty of times, and saw most of the touristy places when I was young. Of course, it's impossible to be in this city and not find a killer photo opp everyday, but I don't feel like I have much to say about them. So, I made a tumblr: http://jon-low.tumblr.com. It's just a wall of photos and I feel like it does a better job of expressing what I'm experiencing than I could with words.

Today I have to write though. I was able to meet an old companion last month and wrote about that. Today my (the second of the two) mission president's mission ended and he and his wife return to America tomorrow. There was a reunion tonight with all of the returned missionaries in the area and it was just like my last post about serving a mission; the joy was just exponentially bigger. From the moment I stepped into the church and into the company of all of those people that I served with, I started to dread going home. It was like I was breathing in courage, faith, virtue, charity, and hope with each breath. I can't begin to describe the love I feel for each of those people.

The fact that it was held in Japan was also big. Mission reunions in the states are wonderful, but holding one in Japan is a much bigger ordeal. Simply meeting with nearly 40 members of the church that are your age in Japan is a big deal; having history and extremely sentimental memories with each one is even bigger. It was as if nothing had changed and we were back at a zone conference. I realize now that I will never see all of those people in the same place again and because there's an ocean between our homes, it's hard to say when the next time we'll meet is.

I honestly didn't think I would have much to say about my mission when I came home. I didn't think I was that person. I LOVED it and for that exact reason I treat it as sacred and only share it at choice opportunities.

I suppose tonight was one of those nights. The joy of sharing the gospel made the mission worth it, but the blessing of eternal friends has been one that I've come to appreciate more and more as time passes.

I honestly wish everyone could experience this. I can't imagine passing up this kind of opportunity. Whoever you are, you will not regret serving a mission. I really believe that.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Shimokitazawa

I went on an adventure.



 I've been trying to find things to do since I have so much free time and it'd be a waste to spend all day inside when I'm in the world's biggest city. Since I've been to essentially all of the touristy locations, I've started to look off the beaten track. I discovered Shimokitazawa. It's a little area just west of central Tokyo that is buzzing and thriving among young people as of late.


It's hipster heaven. The streets are too narrow for automobiles, so everyone is walking. The community has fought hard to keep it from being overdeveloped. It is populated mostly by vintage clothing and thrift stores, foreign cuisine, cafes, and underground theaters and music venues. Everything reeks of nature and starving artists; and I love it.




The Darwin Room: a slightly eerie, but mostly delightful taxidermy store/exhibit/cafe.






I'll come back and eat here for sure.



Underground Theatre where lots of Japanese movie stars got their start. 






I just love making discoveries like this. I'll be coming back to dine in a hammock, play with bunnies, and see indie theatre. So excited.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On Friendships and the Gospel

So, I'm in Japan for the next few months. I'm here teaching English for BYU (aimed at kids trying to get into English speaking universities; more on that later) and I feel like with this kind of study abroad/internship experience, blogging is a tradition (and in BYU's case can result in cash prizes) so I figured I'd contribute my fair share for myself and readers (Dad).

This country isn't exotic and mysterious to me. I've been plenty of times and for considerable amounts of time. however, in the past week I've begun to notice specific aspects of culture and behavior that I feel deeply connected to and inspired by. Hopefully I can capture and record them while they're fresh on my mind.

Before that though, I'm going to have to wax rhapsodic about the mission. I met up with my last mission companion yesterday and have been smiling ever since. We didn't really make a specific plan, we were just satisfied with the fact that we could spend time together. It was as if nothing had changed and we slipped right back into the conversational patterns we followed as missionaries.



It made me realize how truly miraculous the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is. The "Families are Forever" moniker is well known inside and outside of the church, but I've come to realize that because of restored eternal truths and especially priesthood authority, all relationships can be forever. That "forever" is dependent upon each parties' commitment to the covenants they've made; so long as both are faithful, they remain connected. I remember one of my investigators (who converted to the church) telling me shortly after I'd gone home that we were sealed by our beliefs and am now realizing how profound that really was. Even though we were geographically separated, our beliefs, furthermore the covenants we've made are the same and we can take comfort in the fact that we're headed to the same place.


Were it not for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, I would have no reason to have left everything for two years and tell every soul I possibly could that there was a plan for them. Had I not served a mission, I never would have crossed paths with dozens of people that I can't imagine life without at this point. We were once companions and met up yesterday as friends, but I honestly felt that this kid is my flesh and bones. There's no doubt in my mind that we came from the same eternal parents. It's such a relief to know that we're headed back to them and will make it so long as we keep it in line.

No matter how I prioritize my life, I cannot continue without that being the end goal. I know that it's real and it seems that He always chooses to teach it to me through people and their love.

Friday, April 11, 2014



This makes me want to go back.

If he can do it, so can you. So much respect here.

Monday, April 7, 2014



I recently had the opportunity to be involved with an original stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice here at BYU. This adaptation took liberties with the story and included a scene where Mr. Darcy tracks down Mr. Wickham and Lydia Bennett after they have run off and Lydia's virtue is presumably lost; an event that is implied in the book but never made explicit.

The scene was great and I had to watch it from the wings every night in order to jump on stage and move set. At the end of the scene, Darcy presents the pair with a wedding ring. Lydia says that it is beautiful "though just a little modest for my taste. You would have picked something bigger, I'm sure my love." That line always seemed to clothesline the audience.

I don't have Pinterest, but that line totally spoke to our Pinterest-obsessed, materialistic society. I cannot count how many times I've watched co-workers and acquaintances who are not only not engaged, but not even romantically involved with anyone discuss and meticulously plan their weddings and hand pick their engagement rings with Pinterest.

Now, I'm sure that Pinterest can be a wonderful resource, but it's also stark evidence of how materialistic and superficial we can get away with being. I mean, I'll just quote another line from the show: Mr. Collins says to Lizzy after his proposal is denied that "it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may EVER be made you." I hope everyone who'd like to can and will get married, but you all realize that it might not happen right? And that if it does and you have it planned before you've even met your spouse, chances are your resources or circumstances might not be able to facilitate your dream wedding and you're more than likely to become bride-zilla, right? I'm just throwing that out there.

Elder Teh said it best this conference:


I think the idea of valuing worldly possessions above human relationships or Christlike attributes seems so cliche that we automatically assume that we're exempt from even the possibility. But really, we need to think about it. I know I do.

Monday, March 24, 2014

There is no usable surface on my desk because it is full of cards of thanks and congratulations. I've never experienced this before.

Today a stranger said to me "good for you, using the stairs" as he came out of the elevator on the top floor of my apartment complex where I live.

I got a lot of stuff done and have an evening to myself

I'm going to Japan in exactly one month.

Life is good.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

12 Years a Slave


You know the drill. I'm realizing now that it's only the pieces of art that really have an effect on me that I end up writing about. And I'm glad that I do, because it's a wonderful thing to record and revisit things that you've felt deeply that are profound.

I saw 12 Years a Slave and at this point in my life, I can't say that I've seen any other film that's as masterfully created, conceived, and executed as this one is. Every last element comes together seamlessly and creates a crystal clear honest window to the human spirit. There are countless shots that will take your breath away, the score does everything with almost nothing, the direction is perfectly cohesive, and the acting is permanently haunting. 


This movie is based on a true story. To me, the name Solomon Northrup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor who is everything anyone could ask for in this role) was familiar, as though I'd possibly read it in a text book and the kidnapping of free people in pre-civil war U.S.A was something I was vaguely familiar with, but am quite happy to be reacquainted with now. Since seeing the film on Tuesday, I have dived headfirst into research as I normally do when provoked and have been shocked to learn that every event and character of significance in the film did indeed exist. And in some cases, the reality was worse than what was depicted in the film. This is a movie of enormous historical importance.

This is not a white-guilt movie. You know the genre. There are countless films that address civil rights, and in most of them the black characters are not really agents, they are moreso objects by which we can discern the white character's moral compasses. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of stories like this that I actually adore (hence, I don't want to call any out in particular), but because there are so many of them, their message sadly becomes cheapened with time. Furthermore, it can distort one's perception of racism and what is racist. I even heard that a certain parent complained to a certain school district that "we're beating the civil rights issue like a dead horse" recently from a friend who is an educator. Obviously the message isn't making it all the way across with what we've got now.


This is a black man's story. This is the story of a man who endured something unspeakable, unfathomable, and incomprehensible. He wasn't born into it; rather, he is sucked into it and forced to experience it first hand. He is us. This movie explores his humanity in addition to the very human (not caricature) flaws of the white characters that do him wrong. We could be any of these people and the film does not pat us on the back for being unlike the "villains" it simply shows us the honest truth. And this isn't about the civil rights movement. Forget about segregated bathrooms or schools, this is a movie about slavery from the perspective of the enslaved. It's been a long time coming. And thank everything that is holy that it was done right.



This is a historically important film and a beautiful piece of art, but I don't know that I could ever watch it again. I don't need to though, because I will never un-see it. This film shows the brutality and indifference to suffering that human beings are capable of, and it's really quite remarkable. Frightening, actually. But it is real, and if we do not educate ourselves, we become ignorant. Who's to say that this isn't happening now? Guess what, it is.

I death-gripped my arm rests for two hours straight, who knows if I was breathing at all. I finally exhaled as the credits rolled and just...wept.

This isn't for the faint of heart, but the effects are positive. Sanctification and edification are not the products of bliss and joy, rather the means by which we get there. If you go see this, it's gonna hurt...real bad...but you will come out better on the other side.

..........



And on a more shallow note: I love JLaw, but if Lupita Nyong'o doesn't win an Academy Award for this, it'll be the injustice of the century. Also, she's possibly the most beautiful person on earth. I mean, look at her:




I'm so glad that I saw this movie, and should you make the choice to see it (seriously think about it; people were walking out) you won't regret it.