Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Missionary Training Center

October 3, 2013

This is a crazy place, the MTC.  But it’s starting to feel like home.  It literally seems like I’ve been here for months, but it’s barely been a week.  My beautiful companion Sister Reed and I were talking about how if we had learned this much and worked this hard in our normal lives, we would have graduated college years ago.  I think what has hit me the hardest in this last week is the gravity of my calling.  I didn’t realize what being a missionary really meant before.  We are called by God.  We have the power to change lives.  We are representatives of Jesus Christ.  His name is on my left shoulder every waking hour.  I AM Sister Lytle now.  Here in the MTC I hear multiple stories of people’s conversion, and THEIR missionary, and I have yet to hear a single person speak of that missionary without a tear in their eye.  That’s what motivates me.  That’s what makes me want to be better, that’s what motivates me to keep every stupid little rule, to work hard even when I have been sitting in the same desk for the past four hours.  It motivates me because I’ve sat in a classroom and watched an 18-year-old Elder bear testimony to me that someone needs each of us, just as his dad needed a specific missionary to change his life.  Someone needs ME.

I’ve also learned here that God is so aware of us, and so present, and he LOVES us.  I’m still in awe of the blessing of my companion.  Sister Reed is so like me, but so much stronger, and I needed her so much.  What a tender mercy it is to have a companion that can relate to me and what I love, and have lesson upon lesson to teach me and help me grow.  And on top of all that, in her I have found a friend, a literal companion to help me and love me and pick up the slack I so often leave hanging.  Sister Reed is a huge blessing that shows God is aware of me, but more often I feel his hand in my life in the little things.  The sun shining in the classroom during a particularly exhausting lesson, a letter from home when I’m feeling alone, another sister’s quiet singing in the shower in the morning to make the day seem just a small bit brighter, the moments when my gaze catches my bracelets on my arm, reminding me that I am a Lytle girl, and to “Live Simply.”  That motto becomes more relevant every day.  The teachers here repeatedly stress the importance of teaching simply.  My whole life and all my belongings can be packed into just two small suitcases here, and I’ve learned that it’s the simple, little things that bring the most joy.  So now more than ever I’m striving to live simply and live in the moment.  Here at the MTC it’s too overwhelming to look forward on the next year and a half of learning, and looking back too long can be distracting, so I’m learning the beauty of living in the moment, being totally present wherever I am, because there is no other way to truly enjoy life, and no other way to be in tune with the spirit.

I really realized the importance of being in the moment in a lesson Sister Reed and I taught in our second TRC lesson yesterday to Barbara.  (The TRC is where people from outside the MTC volunteer to be taught, members or not.)  We finally listened to her and the spirit and didn’t just try to teach the lesson we wanted to, and guess what?  It worked.  Because we were in the moment and listening, the spirit guided the lesson, and I again realized that I alone am so weak, but with God, I can do anything.  After Sister Reed and I left the room, we were quiet for a moment, then we smiled the biggest smiles we’ve ever smiled, and hugged each other, and basically jumped up and down for joy.  I’ve never been so happy in my life.  The woman we taught was almost definitely already LDS, but for some reason that didn’t matter at all.  In that moment, I finally knew for sure that I am in the right place.
Afterward, Sister Reed and I knelt in prayer in an empty classroom.  I’ve never prayed so much in my life before the MTC.  I had no idea what I was missing.  Anyway, we knelt together and as she prayed, I couldn’t help but enjoy the beauty of kneeling with someone you really care about in prayer.  It’s uniting in a way nothing else is.  “A man never stands taller than when he is on his knees.”

Just a few more fun facts about Sister Reed and my companionship:  So, it turns out she’s a peanut butter addict like me!  At dinner one night she was telling me about a brand of natural peanut butter called Adams Peanut Butter that she is IN LOVE with.  She was saying, “You have to just give it a try Sister Lytle, it is the best thing IN THE WORLD!  I PROMISE YOU, it will change your life.”  Just as Elder Mason and Elder Banta (my District Leader) walked up.  We role-play A TON here, so as the Elders sit down, they ask, “You guys are still role-playing?”  We laughed so hard!  As I’m writing this it sounds not very funny . . . the MTC is ruining me!  I have a dumb missionary sense of humor now, haha.  But anyway, that’s kind of our running joke now, that you just have to preach the gospel like it’s peanut butter!

Sister Reed knows a member of the MTC Presidency because she’s from Provo.  He has invited us to sit on the front row with him at every devotional because of that!  The speakers look right into our eyes!  I feel so lucky!  It’s also given me a chance to meet some of the presidency members, which has been a huge blessing.  I can testify without a doubt that these men are called of God.

I miss everyone at home so much, but God has blessed me with a new family to comfort me here at the MTC, my district.  We’re all so different but I love them all.  Sister Morgan and Sister Freeland dorm with Sister Reed and I, and I feel like we are literally sisters.  Elder Banta is our District Leader and he takes such good care of us.  Elder Mason is my best Elder bud.  The gun-shooting, horse-riding, grandpa’s-in-the-Forest-Service, country kid in both of us connected.  Our zone is also really close.  Sister Frehner, the girl who randomly found me on Instagram pre-mission, is so great.  Her hugs make my day.  Also in my zone is an Elder who stutters.  It’s interesting because I’ve never met anyone who stutters.  When talking to him on-on-one you would barely notice it, but in big group situations his stutter is prominent.  Word on the street is when he’s confidently teaching by the spirit, his stutter all but disappears.  That boy will change lives.

Confidence is actually something I’m really gaining myself here.  My favorite teacher, Sister Brown (went to the D.C. South Mission,) stresses confidence a lot.  She always says, “No one is perfect.  No one would like you if you were.  You have talents and attributes ONLY you can offer, that’s what matters.  Don’t ever feel like you should be a certain way, because God needs you exactly as you are.”  She also stresses the importance of silence in teaching and in conversation.  At first I was very afraid to let there be a pause in my teaching or in answering a question because it makes me feel . . . well, dumb.  Sister Brown has made me realize that words spoken without thought are useless, and the spirit speaks better in silence anyway.  So don’t be afraid to stop, think, and listen.  Don’t fill the time you need to think with useless words.  Let the spirit fill it with meaning.  No one will think less of you, especially when you speak with power.

I’m learning so much here.  It has been the hardest week of my life, and also the happiest.  Never before have my imperfections and inadequacies been so apparent, put right in front of my face.  I’ve been brought to my knees, but only to be pulled taller than I stood before, by my Savior.  All I can say is this gospel is the way to true joy.
God lives.  And he loves us.

Fun Facts:
1.     Peter Mower was on an MTC movie we watched!  It made me so happy!!!
2.     Sister Reed talked to a girl who returned from West Virginia a few months ago.  The rumors are true.  You get into the backwoods out there, and some people can’t read.  I CAN’T WAIT TO GET OUT THERE!
3.     I fly to West Virginia Tuesday the 8th on Delta.  I’m so excited for my first plane ride with my new best buds!
4.     I have the best friends and family ever.  Thank you so much for your letters and emails!  I live for them!  I love you all!

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