Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Happiness Just Ahead

Saturday was a big day. President interviews and then a baptism. WHOA!! At President interviews, I got an Ipod, and a really big push from President to improve. He is so dang nice, and watching him pray for me and my family was so sweet. It is actually really cool to see the love he has for each and every missionary. As I talked to him, he told me to create opportunities for myself and go for it. To start role playing and take lead in lessons so that I can be ready to train when called upon. Ah, it is amazing how much the mission pushes you to be better. It asks a lot of your soul, but if you work as hard as you can, you are blessed beyond your imagination. It is funny because I swear he just repeated the words out of Dad's (and every coach I've ever had) mouth. I'm really trying to just focus and work harder. Role-plays are my LEAST favorite thing EVER!!! Lets be real, it is so awkward to stare at your companion and pretend that she is an investigator. But, gotta let go of my pride on that one and really just practice teaching. It's the only way to get better. 

And then, 4 o'clock rolled around, and Michael was all dressed in white, ready to be baptized. Man, he is such an honest-hearted guy who was totally ready before we showed up at his door for baptism. Michael and Sherry are the first people I started teaching consistently. I got to see them grow and watch the light change in their eyes and their countenances. I got to see them talk about the Book of Mormon, and how praying out loud was going. I remember the day he came up to me and told me he wanted to be baptized because he had received an answer to his prayer! And the baptismal day actually came. He was there, ready to be baptized. I was lucky enough to say the opening prayer (and conduct the opening song). ha ha And my companion shook the room with her amazing Spirit. When we all entered back into the church, Sister Hargadon, Sherry and I all sung a musical number. It is Joseph Smiths First Prayer to the music of Oh my Father. It was so powerful to see Sherry up there singing Joseph Smiths vision to her husband. Oh my, he LOVED IT!!! The whole thing was just an amazing event. I felt weird, like it wasn't my baptism at all. It was the Lord's and that is all the mattered. 

You know what the real miracle of all of it was? The whole chapel was FULL of people. The whole ward came to support Michael. He literally was welcomed into a family. You could see how much that meant to him, and I have no worries that after I leave this area that he might be forgotten. This ward has connected with him, and will make him feel at home. When he was in the font, 20 little kids were up at the glass watching him, with people spreading all the way to the back of the room. No chairs left open. My mouth was open from shock. And to see him be baptized, I was so grateful I got to witness all of this. His journey. His wife's journey back to the church. And all they want to do is love people!  When we all entered back into the church, Sister Hargadon, Sherry and I all sung a musical number. It is Joseph Smiths First Prayer to the music of Oh my Father. It was so powerful to see Sherry up there singing Joseph Smiths vision to her husband. Oh my, he LOVED IT!!! The whole thing was just an amazing event. I felt weird, like it wasn't my baptism at all. It was the Lord's and that is all the mattered. 

I also had a cool experience on Sunday, with one of our recent converts. She is such a cool lady, and needs some support and help learning all the gospel principles. She feels inferior lots of times at church because she thinks everyone knows everything and she is the only one trying to learn. I just was very real with her and told her how much I am also struggling, and feeling inferior with my knowledge and teaching abilities here. She really appreciated my honesty, and told me that she just needed people to be real with her. Sometimes all it takes is honesty because it's hard to relate when others can't see you struggle. Ah, when she was saying the closing prayer, she started crying as she said,  "strengthen them, I love them. Amen" It really touched my heart to know that somebody here is affected by my service and loves me. I don't know, it is something to think about. I think you can affect people way deeper by who you really are, than by anything you are trying to be. 

Mount Juliet is a special place. The Spirit is working really hard here right now, preparing lots of people for us to teach. I am honestly amazed. We are so busy running around, just trying to get everything done. I hope and pray that I can get over my own issues, so that I might further be able to help others. As a missionary you hold a lot of responsibility, but it's cool because the Lord will qualify those for the work if you give yourself over to him to work with. 

I am so grateful for all of you who read my letters. The fact that it effects you makes everything I do here worth it. Thank you for being a support to me! I love you all.

Family I love you lots!! Zach, I am just over joyed over here telling all my missionary buddies that you have started your mission papers. I can't believe that!! Oh, I just want to cry out of sheer happiness. Love ya,  bro!! 

Pray for me to be able to feel the love my Savior has for me and share it with others. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Jesus Girls

Man, I look so  forward to every Monday so that I can read all of  your amazing letters. Thanks so much for all the love and support. First, ZACH!!! Oh gosh, you are starting your mission papers this week? Are you serious?  I honestly was tearing up at the computer screen when I read that. Wow, I am the proudest sister of all time. And to hear about how you are reading your scriptures and saying your prayers, plus working your butt off in basketball! The Lord must be beaming right now looking down at his obedient son. You are truly preparing for the greatest experience of your life. Even though it will be hard, there is nothing like serving a mission. There will be no other time in your whole life where you dedicate ALL of your time to the Lord and his work. You will be blessed with an overwhelming outpouring of the Spirit. Don't let anything stop you from this!!! I love you bro!

This week has been nuts. I never thought there would be too much to do. It is crazy trying to fit it all in. That is the best complaint a missionary can have! This week we met this awesome African American family that makes me laugh so hard. They call us the "Jesus Girls." I have never EVER been so honored. They have so many questions about getting back into church. I am really excited to start really teaching them.

Oh, and I got to go through the temple this week.  It was the most beautiful morning to go.

Hermana Winder, Hermana Schmidt, me, Sister Hargadon, Elder Ashton and Elder Barton

We get to go every 6 months, so it was a special occasion. My mission president and wife were in there with us, which made me feel better. It wasn't perfect, but it was way better than the first time. When I got to the end of the session, in the last room, I felt this overwhelming homesickness feeling. The most I have felt being out here. I didn't want to go to heaven by myself, all I wanted was to be there with my family. It really taught me that this life means nothing without your family. And our purpose is to do all we can to love them and help them in any way possible. Everything else is a distraction. This is my time to help other families so that they can be together forever as well.

And then, that night I had the most amazing spiritual experience while teaching the Douglas boys. I sent you a picture with them last week. The three of them met us at the church for a lesson. We were teaching them about the power of the Priesthood. It is a real struggle for people here to believe in that, and so we brought in the Elders to help us explain the priesthood from their point of view. Oh my, all the sudden my insides were shaking from the Spirit. I could just feel it so strongly while teaching these boys. And then, Zack started questioning the power in the Book of Mormon. The elder told him to just jump in and read it. Trying to be sassy, he flipped to a random page.  He turned right to 3 Nephi 23:5, which talks about baptism and searching the words of the prophets. 


Then, not recognizing the Spirit, he flipped to another random scripture and read Alma 34:38 which says NOT to contend with the Holy Ghost and to humble yourself in thanksgiving unto the Lord. Are you serious? I was shocked! That is not a coincidence. He couldn't deny it that time. I have never seen someone get such direct and specific answers like that. 

And then we asked the other two boys how they were feeling, the 13 year old, named Jamie, said with tears in his eyes, "I feel happy . . . lifted up." I was stunned, and completely humbled. By the end of the night, two of the three boys decided to be baptized on February 22. 

When we left the church we were zooming with happiness. Oh my, I couldn't be grateful enough. And I knew the Lord wouldn't have given us the experience if we hadn't been working to be so obedient. Obedience brings miracles. I am grateful my trainer works so hard every day to receive those blessings.

It is amazing to be a part of this great work, even though I wake up so tired, and can't think clearly with everything going on. I just gotta keep trying. 

If you want a great talk to read that clearly outlined Jesus Christ church and is my new favorite talk, it is called, "The Blueprint of Christ's Church" by Tad R. Callister. It was at a BYU January devotional. The people in the South are hard to convince of the truthfulness of modern day revelation, but oh man, this talk outlines what Christ's church on the earth had back then, and so what it should have now! It's clear and powerful. I strongly recommend it.

I learned this week that the Lord gives us everything we have. Food, clothes, talents, families, church, scriptures . . . you name it. The list goes on and on. Everything is already the Lords, and always has been. The only thing that is not his, is our will. That is the one thing that we have control over. Basically, our choices. That really hit me. And it's hard to let go of what we want and hand it over to the Lord, but you know what, that is what I am here for. Isn't that what we are all on this earth to do? Align our will with God's?

I don't know, just something I have been thinking about.

I love all of you!!! Thanks for all you have done for me. Pray that all the people I am teaching will move toward Baptism!!!

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Cinnamon Challenge

Oh, I am so excited for the package! Mail is literally the best thing a girl could ask for on the mission. Oh and I am floored and completely humbled that people read my blog. I can't believe that anyone wants to listen to my rants.

It's amazing how much I am learning, and how much more I need to learn. Some moments I am on cloud nine, just zooming, with the Spirit running through me, helping me get pumped on the truthfulness of the gospel. Oh my, it is true! And I love Tennessee, and want so badly in my heart to be a Southern woman, wearing my Goodwill attire, with my name tag shining. 

Mary Ruth is coming along. She is down to half of her normal amount of cigarettes. Man, I love her. Why is it so HARD to quit addictions! She's about 75 and got a real bad fever of 103 a few days ago. She prayed to God saying, "You can't let me die before I get baptized!" Soon enough, we got some priesthood holders to bless her and the next day she was healed! She knows it's true!  Thanks for the fasting and praying for her. I know she feels it. I tell her about the family all the time, and that one day I will bring you guys back to meet her. Cinnamon mouthwash is supposed to help people stop smoking because the two tastes are so bad together. I pretty much cleared Walmart out of that stuff. Don't worry, nobody will be smoking in Tennessee by the time I am done with this place. 

Here is a photo of the Mary Ruth's flying pig that I have hanging in my apartment: 

One of my all time favorite missionary moments happened this week while I was driving down Tate Lane for the first time with my Southern Grandma Sheila. Tate Lane is a road that everybody warned us against driving on. The road is so small that two cars can't drive alongside each other. The road curves so fast and sharp,  you can't see who is coming at you. The trees surrounding the roads are so tall and majestic you forget you are in suburbia. And oh boy, when we drove it, my life changed. I was laughing so hard, feeling free and forgetting all about the stress of the day. Plus, I was with my favorite member, who backed into a fence last time we drove together. 

Sometimes, everyone needs a little bit of Tate Lane to survive the stresses in life. It helped me to see that mission life can be really fun. I get so excited for district meetings now, and firesides. It's like spiritual nourishment to inspire me and get me through the week. 

A cool story, I was telling this family about my baptism and what a sacred and special experience it was to me. I told him that I remember walking out in the water to my Dad, and then I thought, "Oh, should I have said that? Is that too much to teach them that a regular person can have the Priesthood authority?" And then, this kid who is about 20 and doesn't have a family said, "That is pretty cool that your earthly father got to help you get closer to your Heavenly Father." 

I was like, WHOA!! It hit me so hard. What a cool opportunity I had to be baptized by my father. And it is so true, you have always helped me rely on my Heavenly Father. 

I have seen so many broken families out here, with so many crazy life adventures. I wish everyone had a Dad like you. Well, I guess they all have Heavenly Father, and look at me, out here trying to teach people of that significance! Which is pretty cool, actually.

There is so much confusion down here in the South and it is easy to get caught up in it. Church is looked at as a fun, entertaining experience. Everyone church hops to find the best preacher that fits their personality.

It isn't as much about which doctrine is right, so it really interesting to try and explain to people that is a way of life, and something that takes work to be a part of. A lot of the churches out here make SOOO much money, it is crazy. We don't have a paid ministry. It is really humbling to see the stark contrast.

Some things that are really Southern: macaroni and cheese, lots of meat,lots of little rescue dogs, and they love to talk about Satan. Man, they say stuff like, "And then Satan walked through my door, and I told him to leave right then." It's just a different cultural thing.

And every day we come back smelling like SMOKE!! We say that we don't work hard enough if we don't smell like smoke at the end of the day.  

And OH MY Heavens....it is freezing!!! Oh my, we ran to the library, and I thought someone was pushing ice cubs into my skin. I have never been so worn out and defeated by this type of cold.

It hit me this week that I am an actual missionary. Weird right? I just finished my first transfer and am still staying in Mt. Juliet. I am slowly seeing that missionary work does work and the way they do it is for a reason. Even though it drives me nuts with all of the calling and organizing stuff and trying to get rides, it all needs to be done. And it is all helping a better cause. 

Micheal is getting baptized on Feburary 15th!!! Wahooo!!! That is a miracle for sure! He told us that he said a specific prayer and got a specific answer. Watching these things happen, I can see how there really is a Heavenly Father and the gospel of Jesus Christ really does change people. Going into people's homes from start to end, I have seen the light in people's eyes change. The gospel is really the only way for one to feel true JOY!

We are teaching the Douglas Family.

Left: Brian, Karen, Matt Douglas, Mikey
Front Row: Zach and Jamie Douglas
The mom is a recent convert, and now her husband and 4 boys are learning about our church. They range from 13 to 20 years old. It is so cool to see them start to feel comfortable praying and reading the Book of Mormon. They seem so much happier and there is a different spirit in their home. We made a calendar for them of a different chapter to read in the Book of Mormon and then on Saturday we are all going to fast with them to know if the Book of Mormon is true. They have been coming to church! And here is the craziest thing--we have been begging our ward to help us fellowship the people that we get to come to church. And nothing has really changed, and then BAM!!! Zack--19 year old boy--gets up during testimony meeting and says, "So, y'all keep bearing your testimony about the Book of Mormon. What is it? Why do you believe it? " And he invited everyone to tell him their conversion story. He ended with, " Y'all are AWESOME!" I was shocked. There was a smile so big on my face. The ward got the hint after that, and the rest of the  meeting was filled with people going up to the stand directing their testimonies right at Zack. SO AWESOME!

I love you guys! Thanks for all the prayers! Ah, I am making it through. Some days are harder than others. Gosh, I hate having so many feelings and crying so much. But I am learning and enjoying all of it! 

Love ya,