Courtesy of Morgan Jones
Morgan Jones smiles for a photo with friends at her 27th birthday party.

Recently, I turned 28 years old. This is somewhat of a freaky experience for someone who still feels like they should be 12. But I’m grateful for birthdays because they always allow an opportunity for introspection and reflection.

I have been thinking about the last year of my life a lot. This year was honestly one of the hardest I have ever had. There is no one reason that it was tough, but a lot of little difficult things that seemed to add up and still as I thought back on this year, I realized that I wouldn’t change anything about it.

This year taught me to feel and to process. It taught me to trust and to learn. And oddly enough, these lessons I’ve discovered along the way have made 27 one of the years that I think I will look back on and cherish most in the years to come. I read a quote once that said “we write to taste life twice,” and while 27 was a little bittersweet, I think I may want to taste it again at some future date.

So here are 27 lessons I learned from being 27:

1. Give God time to work things out

My roommate recently told me that she was telling her dad about a situation she was concerned about and her dad said something like, “You just haven’t had time to see how God makes it all work out.” If there is anything that I have learned in the last year, it is that somehow even when a situation may seem irreparable, He really does have the ability to make “all things work together for good to them that love God.” So we pray and we believe and we trust that if we are doing our part, everything will work out.

Morgan Jones had the opportunity to serve with Anneli Hansen, Chelsie Hightower and Kristen Biegler in the Hillside YSA Ward Relief Society presidency last year. | Provided by Morgan Jones

2. You will never regret the decision to be kind.

There was a time this year when I was starting to reconsider this statement, but you can now take me to the bank on it.

3. G2G protein bars are everything.

This week my boss told me to never say anything “is everything.” It is now my goal to work that phrase into everything I write. But really, G2G. I’m not kidding. They’ll change your life. And no, this is not sponsored.

4. Feel the pain.

Things will hurt. They will break your heart. Feel the pain. Acknowledge it. Ponder what you’re learning but don’t ignore it and don’t allow yourself to become numb. I heard someone say this year that “suffering is hard but it’s where it leads us that makes it necessary.”

Orson F. Whitney said, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God.” Along the same lines, Virginia Pearce said, “If our troubles can take us to God, we can be thankful for them.” I can keep the quotes coming if you’d like. No? OK, moving on.

5. Meditate

This year, I have done yoga three times a week on average. I’m pretty sure it has saved my sanity. Namaste.

6. Drive your bus

One of my favorite things I learned in the last year was at a conference I went to back in March. A speaker said that she likes to think of our lives as a bus. She said that we decide who gets on our bus and where they sit. For example, if we want them to be the voice inside our heads, we make them a higher priority and they sit next to us on the bus. So drive your bus, put the people who deserve it in the best seats and reserve the right to kick people off your bus.

7. Learn to be OK with being alone.

One of my favorite quotes I read in the last year says: “The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it's not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of another person — without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other” (Osho).

I don’t know who Osho is, but to him I say, “Preach."

I would add to what he said and say that I believe God is best able to communicate with us when we are alone. I also think that it is in moments we feel lonely that we are best able to understand the love of our Savior.

8. 'Why not speak of the Atonement of Christ?'

I recently read a scripture in the Book of Mormon and a simple question within the verse struck me. It says “For why not speak of the Atonement of Christ?” It hit me that I should talk more about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is the thing that saves us, the thing that gives us hope and yet, we only talk about it at church. We’re all struggling. Everyone is going through something. Life is not the highlight reel we see on Instagram. Life is tough but fortunately, the Atonement of Jesus Christ is not just for sin, it gives us strength to recognize our weaknesses, to forgive and to believe. What would happen if instead of trying to outdo each other, we instead shared our experiences with the Atonement? I think the world would be a lot cooler, but maybe that’s just me.

Morgan Jones celebrates her 28th birthday with friends in Park City. | Provided by Morgan Jones

9. This life isn’t about having fun. It’s about finding joy.

I went through a little phase where I was having a ton of fun. The past year hasn’t been as fun and at first that was hard for me, but then I realized that we aren’t here to have fun. On the contrary, we’re here to learn and ultimately to find eternal joy. But that joy comes after opposition; it comes as we learn from the pain. I’ve learned that joy is so much better than fun.

10. Be a friend. Show up.

Brooke Romney, a columnist I work with, wrote a piece this year about the importance of being a friend rather than just being friendly. She said, "Real friends call on birthdays and stop by just to say hello. Real friends watch out for your children and have your back when no one else will. Real friends do what is inconvenient, they make time for you and make you feel wanted. Real friends cry with you and want the very best for you. Real friends watch you make mistakes and forgive you. Real friends know you, really know you, and they love you anyway." There is a difference. I learned that this year. So take time to listen, go on walks, give rides to and from the airport, go to the baby shower you don’t feel like going to. Be a real friend and you will always have real friends.

11. Miracles happen and the greatest miracle may be a heart-changing.

I’ve heard that the greatest miracle may be a heart changing. I always thought when people said that they meant a heart changing and choosing to repent but I’ve learned in the last year that Heavenly Father can work miracles in our hearts by softening them, allowing us to see things from a different perspective or by allowing us to forgive. Nothing is cooler than feeling your heart change and realizing there is no way you could’ve made that happen on your own.

12. Take time to be holy.

One of my favorite hymns is a song called “Take Time To Be Holy,” and there is a line that I have always loved that says, “Take time to be holy, the world rushes on. Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.” In January, I started working in the temple and I feel like that is what it does for me. It gives me a place to get away from the world, to be still and to take time to be holy. Two words: game changer.

13. Country music concerts and hikes in the summer are never a bad idea.

Just trust me on this one. I'll even loan you my roommates if you want an enhanced experience with both.

Kate Bell, Morgan Jones, Kelsi Yates and Audrey Blake smile at a Dierks Bentley concert. | Provided by Morgan Jones

14. Write down a list of what Heavenly Father thinks of you.

Back in March, I wrote down a list of what Heavenly Father thinks of me and threw away my mental list of what I think everyone else thinks of me. His opinion is the only one that really matters anyway.

Sister Patricia Holland said, “Problems can be painful and dark and disappointing —but we are not painful and dark and disappointing. We are children of God and must see ourselves as God sees us, recognizing the positive in ourselves, the part God loves so much.”

15. Be an intentional disciple of Jesus Christ

My parents attended a funeral for a relative’s husband this year and at the funeral they talked about how he was an intentional disciple of Jesus Christ and how everything he did was in an effort to come closer to God. I hope that someday, someone can say that about me.

President Boyd K. Packer said, “I’m not ashamed to say that … I want to be good. And I’ve found in my life that it has been critically important (to establish this intention) between me and the Lord so that I knew that He knew which way I committed my agency. I went before Him and said, ‘I’m not neutral, and you can do with me what you want. If you need my vote, it’s there. I don’t care what you do with me, and you don’t have to take anything from me because I give it to you—everything, all I own, all I am—; and that makes the difference.”

I want to intentionally do things that will bring me closer to Christ.

16. Value your experiences

The Bible says that “Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” I believe that as we have experiences in choosing to follow God, the experiences are deposited away into a bank we can draw from when we need reassurance. In Malachi, God says in reference to the law of tithing, “Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” He essentially says, “Just try it and see what happens.” I believe that as we try to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will have experiences that we can withdraw from our bank when we need something to believe in over and over again.

Morgan Jones served as mission companions with Madison McBride Butcher. The two are photographed at Butcher's wedding in November. | Provided by Morgan Jones

17. Everyone has a story.

I write people’s stories for a living. I love hearing other people’s stories but have never felt like my story had much to offer anyone. But this year, my friend Chelsie started getting asked to speak at firesides. She asked me if I wanted to speak with her and at first I was reluctant. Let’s be clear, Chelsie has a really cool story. Mine is a lot less cool. But in telling it, I’ve realized we all have a story to tell, even me.

18. Don't sweat the small stuff.

Confession: I was having a hard time coming up with the 27th thing for this list and my roommate said she would tell me something she thought I had gotten better with in the last year. And I feel relieved that she thinks that. In reality, some things just aren't worth stressing over.

19. Heaven is a lot closer than we might think.

My grandma, Momel, passed away just over a year and a half ago. It’s interesting how often I have felt her. I’ve felt her at concerts, at church and on my drives to work in the mornings. One of my aunts said at her funeral that if one of Momel’s kids or grandkids were going to raise their hand in class, Momel wanted to be there to see it. It’s true, she tried to be everywhere and I think she’s taking full advantage of her current situation. The other day I was driving to work and had the thought that Momel was telling someone, “Morgan’s going on another first date, wanna watch?” It made me feel good to know that I was providing some entertainment. Here’s hoping she helps a sister out in that department ... soon.

20. Be nice to everyone even when you don’t feel good

This year I flew internationally for the first time by myself. I was really sick with a bad cold on the day of my departure and got called up to the terminal counter to check my passport. I was nice and made some jokes to the guys at the counter and they must have been able to tell that I was sick. When I boarded the plane, I realized they had bumped me to first class. Here’s to being nice and to the airline ticket counter guys who were beyond nice. #FlyDelta (Again, this is not sponsored.)

21. Life is unfair. Be grateful.

I was driving to work one day about a month ago when I looked out my window at the homeless people I pass every day on my way to work. I was all of the sudden overwhelmed with the sense that life is not fair and that I needed to be grateful for the life that I have. Since then, I have reflected on this thought over and over again. Things can change in the blink of an eye. Be grateful right now.

22. Forget yourself.

My dad has always taught me that if you want to be totally miserable, all you have to do is think about yourself all the time. This year, it finally started to sink in. It can be really easy as a young single adult to fall into a “me” mentality because at this point I haven’t really HAD TO worry about anyone but myself for almost 10 years. It actually takes an effort to not just become completely self-absorbed, but I'm fighting it with all I have.

23. Get out of your comfort zone.

In the words of the Jillian Michaels exercise DVD we watched every morning on my mission, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I am the most cautious person on the planet but there is something super exciting about pushing yourself to do something that scares the heck out of you, knowing you could epically fail but also knowing that if you succeed, it could be pretty sweet.

24. It’s OK to be lost.

I wrote a feature story recently with a really awesome quote about this point. I know you’re riveted now.

25. Communicate

Have difficult conversations. Be honest. Don’t allow feelings of frustration, anger or resentment to fester inside of you. Don’t allow a perfectly good relationship or friendship to become ruined by words unspoken. When you really love people, you are willing to have difficult conversations at the risk that they may not like what you have to say. It may take some time but they will eventually realize that you said these things because you love them and they will appreciate having someone in their life who is willing to say the difficult things. Help the people around you feel confident that you are a person who stays and doesn’t run when things get tough.

26. Put first things first.

Charles Penrose said, “Why waste your time, your talents, your means, your influence in following something that will perish and pass away, when you could devote yourselves to a thing that will stand forever?”

Very few things will stand forever, make sure you are placing focus on the things that will. Remember who you are and make decisions based on that divine destiny. Don’t sell yourself short.

27. Love your people

A friend of mine recently said that years ago she asked her best friend, who is also a good friend of mine, if she should hide her "feminist tendencies." Her friend, who is pretty conservative, responded, "Are you kidding me? It's one of your best qualities." She then wrote, "This woman loves her people for who they are." I want to be known as a lover of my people. Thank goodness we're not all the same. And thank goodness for people who take us as we are and love us for who we are while we're learning what we came here to learn. Heaven knows, we're all just trying to figure this thing out.