Monday, April 30, 2012

Missionary Work

Time flies when you are having fun! This week has just flown by. We taught 17 lessons - which is way big. The biggest news is that E and her four oldest children have a baptismal date for May 19th! There are still a lot of struggles, but we all have them. I love teaching that family, especially the girls. They are so interested and just love to hear more. They have the best questions.

We have been meeting with a lot of less active members. Sometimes they just say something like "that was a long time ago, I'm not interested right now." Sometimes it's more fun. There was a mother/daughter (70s and 50s?) who just talked over each other and were all over the place in their topics. Then the mother briefly read sister G's palm and told her that she would have a long life and had many trials and something big is coming her way. She looked at me (not even my hand) and started asking about if I was married. I said "No, I'm a missionary." Then she said to be careful who I marry, my second husband would be great. I am also going to have three children. The daughter remembered more about church and paid more attention when we started talking Gospel things. It was a fun experience.

We also got to start someone on the Stop Smoking Program the church has. Which is seriously amazing. Vitamin C and grapefruit juice and cinnamon gum mixed with prayer and scripture study and a good diet. Good stuff. I think we are going to go do yard work with her later this week.

I had the most amazing insight the other day. Christ didn't come to Earth *because* Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Rather he was always going to come and they knew that they had to eat the fruit in order to help all us out. "adam fell that men might...have joy." The greatest joy we have is in our Savior. This life is a time to learn and grow and the only way we could grow is if we left the nest - left the presence of God. Like when a person goes off to College, there is so much growth and learning in that trial time. We always have prayer/the phone to reach parents and they guide us and remind us of what is important.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Laughing through life

Note to self - reading in character from the bible during companion study is probably not a good idea.

We were reading Acts 2:37-41 which says "Then Peter asaid unto them, bRepent, and be cbaptized every one of you in the dname of Jesus Christ for the eremission of sins, and ye shall receive the fgift of the gHoly Ghost." I may or may not have started being goofy and shortly thereafter both of us were literally on the floor laughing. I have been praying to find more joy in my studies though, so God answers prayers

So yesterday I had to play the organ for Sacrament meeting. Now, usually, the hymns are more along the lines of a dirge. So I said to myself, I'm going to pick up the pace. People even told me to play tempo when they found out I was playing. I was doing alright, my prelude was OK. I messed up a ton, but whatever. So we get to that opening hymn, and the chorister gets up there and I play the intro at speed, and then we are singing and she is fighting me the whole way. I would get almost a measure ahead of her at some points. I just started laughing, and then Sister G. starts laughing and I'm playing, I can barely see, my palms are sweaty from nervousness and it was quite an experience.

Church only got better because Shirly was there!!!! We have been teaching her for almost 7 weeks now, her daughter is a member and she had been to church once before with her, many months ago. She loved it! The talks were especially good. Bro F. (kind of like Mr. F hahahaha) was assigned 3 Nephi 11 and he just went through and tore it apart. His wife spoke on strengthening our families by strengthening spirituality. It was just way good. And our Relief Society lesson was on prayer.

I have somewhat to say concerning prayer. Yes, we use the language of scripture when we pray - with the thees, thines, thous, thys, etc. But that in no way means that you cannot, in your most personal prayers or moments, break down any barriers and speak to our Heavenly Father however you feel comfortable. We were with one of the members that I am very close with and her heart was broken because her Visiting Teaching companion mentioned (in a way that was not meant to offend, but to teach) that she might need to be a little more formal in her prayers. She will refer to Heavenly Father as "daddy," and you know what, she needs that! She has been brought up from a horrible place and she needs to know that she is much closer to her Heavenly Father. She shows the utmost respect for him when she says that. I've noticed that they teach that whole "daughter of a king" thing much more in Young Women than in Relief Society. Yes, he is a King, and we must honor, respect, and revere Him. But he is also our Father, and that means that he understands us personally. Someone in our ward said that we need to be vulnerable in our prayers, to lay it all out in front of him. I like that idea.

"As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11)" (Bible Dictionary).

Now, I step off my soapbox. Sometimes, I wish I had an actual soapbox to preach from...

Also, these are my scriptures of the last few weeks. President read them with me and taught me to ask questions and then to follow all the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we do this, as we ask and follow, we become "as a child" and "as a saint"

"Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, bfeast upon the cwords of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will dtell you all things what ye should do. Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye aask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark. For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will ashow unto you all things what ye should do." (2 Nephi 32:41)

"For the anatural bman is an cenemy to God, and has been from the dfall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he eyields to the enticings of the Holy fSpirit, and gputteth off the hnatural man and becometh a isaint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a jchild, ksubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father". (Mosiah 3:19)

Thank you for the package! I love those apple rings and the crackers and the nuts. I share sometimes. I haven't gotten the AZ pictures as yet, but probably sometime this week. We have interviews with President on Thursday and I am so excited! I learn so much from those interviews. We got a new district leader and he is really pushing us to become better missionaries and to build our testimonies. He challenged us to pray for all the missionaries in our district by name and I can really feel the power of that. Prayer is amazing!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Practicing the Piano Pays Off!

So I was thinking a few weeks ago how I really need to get up on my hymns, just to be ready. And lo and behold, the opportunity knocked. I played (not well) for two baptisms this week, for primary, and I will be playing on Sunday since the organist will be out of town. Yay for hymns and yay for Darlene :)

Tomorrow marks the beginning of my second transfer, Saturday was nerve-wracking because that's when we find out if we are being transferred. It was unlikely that either I or my companion would be transferred, but who knows! President doesn't even know for sure where everyone is going until he tells them at the transfer meeting on Tuesday. Changes are being made up until that point. They stop forwarding mail for the weekend so that if we do end up moving, there aren't mail issues. So if you sent anything, I may not have gotten it yet.

But, I did get a package from the Hugheses, full of Easter goodies (which I promptly devoured), from Joleen Hughes I got PB to go and lots of conference talks, and Jessi sent our journal :) And thank you to Brother Radding for the testimony journal. I don't know if I said that before, but I have it and am using it. I am a little behind on my letter writing, so I will get back to everyone who has written as soon as I can, but we aren't supposed to write except on P-day and boy, time flies on Mondays!

 On Thursday we had a Zone Conference/Activity Day. Basically, we had a few hours of instruction and talked a lot about revelation through prayer and missionary work. It was amazing. Then we went to a park where someone had prepared a half a pig for us - literally. Pictures to come. It's called a Pig Pickin' and it was good. Then we were split into groups and played volleyball, capture the flag, soccer, frisbee. It felt a little bit like a Benning Family Reunion. It was great to just run around and have fun.

Then that evening, we had dinner with a sister who comes out with us a lot. She made the most amazing Medeterranian feast! Hummus, tzatziki, pita bread, quinoa, greens, tomatos, falaffal. Such a break from the usual.

 I promise, we do missionary work in addition to having fun. We contacted some great people this week and have lessons for next week. It's weird to me  how full our weeks are. When I got here, we had to start from scratch, so our planners were empty, now it's hard to fit everything in. Just goes to show how the Lord is preparing his children to hear about the Gospel and to bring them to him.

 I've been studying up on Christlike attributes lately and this morning it was obedience. It is through obedience to the commandments that we are blessed. Someone said something recently that really hit me. She said that the commandments aren't just the ones found in the bible, but they are whatever the Lord tells YOU to do. You have to listen to the spirit and figure out what your, specific commandments are so that you can best become like Christ and be blessed. The goal is eternal life with God, but it requires us following the commandments. This is the hardest thing to get people to do. They are willing to listen to us, but not to act. Faith is active.

 I leave that thought with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Miracles DO Happen

This email arrived on 4/9/2012. Sorry for the delayed post!

I got a letter from Kimberly! It's a miracle! It only took almost two months, but it has happened.

First, lemme tell you about our temple trip. It takes a little over two hours to get to the temple from New Bern. Sister C. (our house-mom) drove us there and back and she got to spend the day with her daughter who lives up there. The temple is amazing, it's my favorite place. Just like with General Conference, it always helps to have a question in mind when you go to the temple (or to church or when you read your scriptures or pray or whatever). It doesn't have to be a huge question, but having a question shows the Lord that you want to receive revelation and instruction from Him and you will receive it! The funny thing is that my questions weren't exactly answered at the temple, but in an interview I had with President Cotterell right between the temple and lunch. He invited me to go to my scripture study with a question and an open notebook with a pen poised to write any thoughts. Not just thoughts pertaining to the question, but whatever hits you. I know a few of you are trying to make it through the Book of Mormon right now and I suggest you do the same. It will help focus your reading and help strengthen your testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Bible and about the Plan of Salvation and our Savior, Jesus Christ and... you get my point. Anyway, after the temple, all the sisters went to the mission home and had a lovely dinner and little testimony meeting with President and Sister Cotterell. Then Sister C. came to pick us up. She took us to Sam's Club on the way home and bought us groceries. Lemme tell you, if you want to do something for the missionaries, buy them groceries and drive them places. We only get so many miles a month and so we have to be careful. Today we decided to run/walk to the church to use the internet :)

Yesterday we went to meet with a member who is in a long-term care facility. About ten years ago she had a stroke and she did not recover as well as some people I know.  She can't use words very well and I can tell it frustrates her, but she is very animated when she talks and she has the sweetest spirit. Unfortunately, she doesn't get too many visitors. We brought her some Easter Cookies I made (ps make chocolate chip cookies with all butter, use dark brown sugar instead of light, and do half pb chips and half mini choco chips and you will be in heaven). After we shared a spiritual thought just before we left, she said she had a question. She pointed to a picture of an old man and told us, in her broken words and gestures, how they had met one day in the dining room and they became friends, he asked her to marry him...THREE TIMES she said 'no' each time and now really regrets it. He passed away and just wanted to know if she would get the chance to be with him in heaven. We assured her that Heavenly Father knows her and her desires and that she will have the chance to be married because marriage is an eternal principle and everyone will get the chance.
We are also meeting with Robert...a. Miss/Mister Robert takes great care of his mother and just really needs someone to talk to. It is hard for us to get a word in edgewise.He wants us to hold bible study in the courtyard of the housing complex he lives in and offered to hold a bake sale to raise money for us. A non-member wanting to help us do missionary work! But we asked him to find his favorite scripture for next time, so hopefully our lesson will have more of a focus.

We also got to teach Ebony's daughters and they are sooooo sweet and amazing. I love teaching. I can't even describe how amazing it is to watch people as they come to realize how much God loves them. Their eyes change. Their countenance changes.

For Easter, I made a great lunch. I had been having a hard few days and Sister G.(companion) asked if there was anything she could do for me and I said "you can let me make lunch." We had tilapia fillet packets with yellow bell pepper, tomato, onion and garlic, and frozen veggies (spinach and asparagus stir-fry) that I spiced up and made fancy, and some frozen rolls that sister carter wanted to get out of teh freezer. The three of us ate outside and chatted. It was a great Easter. But it isn't about all that. Even the primary children know what it is really about. Sister C. was telling us about how her primary kids knew that Easter isn't all candy and eggs and bunnies, it is about the atonement and Resurrection of our Savior. It is about how much God loves us and how much of elder brother loves us and how, together, they provided a way for us to become like them. We can be made clean of all our sins and our pains and afflictions. I can't even describe it. Have any of you watched the new church video? It is amazing.Go to right now. Watch it. Then pray about what the atonement means for you, personally. I realized, yesterday, what it means for ME. We always say that "Christ died for OUR sins" forgetting that he knows each of us and felt it all just for one person at a time. He prayed for each person individually. I mean, I don't know exactly how it happened, but I like to think of it that way.

Thank you all for letters and love and prayers :) Love you!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

One Month

On Friday, I will have been in New Bern for exactly one month, which is crazy. It feels like so much longer because we do so much it can't possibly have fit into one month. Seventeen more to go...

Thank you all who sent letters, I will not get a chance to write back until next Monday because we are going to the Temple on Friday and that is our P-day (other than email and quick grocery shopping) and we don't write letters except on P-day. But I love getting letters and you all make me smile :)

 I love General Conference!!!! And lemme tell you, actually going to the Church building and watching it there, in Sunday clothes, is such a different experience. When we watch it at home, it is easy to get distracted, or too comfortable and informal. There is also something about the commraderie of watching it with your fellow members and being able to talk about it right after. We had two investigators attend!! One came with his family (who are members). We aren't sure if he was actually awake for it, but hey, he was there. The other was Ebony. She always surprises me and reminds me that miracles do happen. Just to look at her, you wouldn't think that she would be able to get past the boredom of two hours of being talked at, but right after it ended, she said that she wished she could have watched the other sessions and that all the questions she came with were answered. We invited everyone we talked with to go to Conference with a specific and relevant question that they needed answered. Conference is amazing that way - no matter what they say, even if it had nothing to do with your question, it will be answered. I know my questions were answered.

I've finally gotten a chance to bake and I feel so relieved. All that pent up cooking energy... turned into cupcakes (with my homemade frosting) and muffins (from a box, but whatever) and my yummy granola (which I finished very quickly). It makes me happy. We have also started walking up and down the street during part of our companion study. We discuss what we learned in our personal study, and it keeps me more focused since I have trouble sitting for so long.

We had an interesting experience the other evening. Well, we always have interesting experiences, but I can't share them all because I don't have the time. Anyway, we were walking back to the car and we both needed a bathroom, but I saw some houses down the street and I thought, "we should do those houses, there are only a few and we can hold it a bit longer." So we went. An just before we knocked on the first door, a man biked up to us and started talking, asking what we believed. He got to his point really quickly. He just needed to know if he was condemned to hell because he had killed people while serving in the Army. We assured him that no, defending family and country are exceptions to the "thou shalt not kill" rule. It made me think of the title of liberty, which I love! Then at Conference, Pres Uchtdorf (?) and others talked about protecting the family and whatnot. The family is the most important thing we have. It is so hard for me to be away from my family right now, but I know that you are being blessed for my service and that I get to help other families get to the point where they can be sealed in the Temple for time and all eternity. I get to help them "strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the Temple and enjoy the blessings of exaltation."

I invite you all to pray about who you know that needs the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives. Because I can tell you that the answer is everyone. Heavenly Father *has* prepared his children to receive this message of love and light, but he cannot speak to them except through us. We need to guide them to the path and help them along it, just like we welcome help along the path. If there is one thing I have learned in the past month, it is that.
Thank you to Ashley who, from what I hear, makes my blog amazing <3 and to my family who sends me happy gifts <3

God loves you, I love you!

Here's President Uchtdorf's talk to which Laura referred:

New Pics

I'm still trying to figure out how best to post Laura's pictures on this blog. Until I get all that sorted out, here are some recent shots she sent us.