Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Kentucky to Virginia

Two suitcases and backpack.  I love that my whole life can just be packed up in a few hours and the next day I can be living in a whole new place. #LiveSimply. I came across a scripture in the BOM the morning of transfers that talked about god watching over "us wanderers in this strange land." That hit me so hard. This land is strange, and I am wandering through it, but I have never felt more taken care of by God. Sister R-------, the woman who picked me up and took me to Ashalnd when I was just a tiny new baby missionary (that feels like eons ago,) took us to transfers again. She gave me 4 cd's she had burned of music she listened to on her mission in Belgium to be for my birthday! I wanted to cry, I felt like I couldn't leave the people of Ashalnd I loved so much.

Anyway, we got to transfers..... and President Pitt was there. I wish you could feel the power of that man's presnece in a room. He fills the chapel completely. And he fills it with love. I've never expereienced anythhing like it. Testimonies are born and goodbyes are given to departing missionaries. Then, the incoming missionaries are lined up against the wall. Just like I was 6 weeks prior. My heart started to pound just remembering my feelings from that day. I so badly wanted to just hug them all, tell them it would be alright. The trainees were all assigned their new companions and everyone split to go to their new areas. My new companion wasn't able to be there because Lexington is about 5 hours away from Charleston the way you have to come for transfers. (It takes so long because a train of vans and a huge truck for all the luggage have to come together and pick up everyone from the different areas along the way) Luckily, I got to travel with Sister Call, my favorite girl from my zone who plays rugby, and her new trainee. We got all our luggage in the truck and loaded into the vans and my all-day journey began. We left at about noon and I didn't get to Lexington until 7 that night. It was pretty exhausting,  but I saw two very important tender mercies happen on that ride.

Angels are among us. I know that for sure. And many times, those angels are actual people. On that long transfer ride God sent me two beautiful angels, the first by the name of Sister Herzog. I don't really know how it happened, but everyone in the van was kind of chatting with everyone and I got caught in this conversation with Sister Herzog. It's also interesting because I have seen her at different things throughout this last transfer, and I felt a weird connection to her that I didn't think of much or act upon at all. Well, now I understand that connection. We shared the warmest, most loving conversation I have maybe ever been in. It wasn't about anything deep, and she probably felt like it was just another conversation. But as we talked, I felt as if God was telling me, "Darcy, look at this girl. Look at yourself. You are sisters, you can be companions with anyone, and I have companions you will LOVE, just like you love Sister Herzog right now." I can't tell you how much I needed that. I was excited to be getting a new companion, but also so scared. I didn't know if I could go through another adjustment like I did last transfer. But again, God let me know that everything would be ok.

We continued travelling until we got to Virginia, there we stopped at a buffet to eat. We had gained and lost missionaries all throughout our drive at different stops, and at this particular stop we gained quite a few elders. As we were standing in line waiting to go into the buffet, I looked behind me just to see how many people where there. I did a double-take on a certain face in the crowd. A face that looked like home. As I looked back again, realizing what I had just seen, I didn't even think as I said "Justin???" Justin Maxwell, a boy I loved but never knew REALLY well in high school looked back at me in suprise. He kinda laughed and smiled as he said, "It's been a while since anyone's called me that, Sister Lytle." We laughed and shook hands. I had no idea he was in my mission! We had such a great conversation during dinner and I just felt so... happy. Easy happiness was not something I felt my first weeks. My happiness was hard won. I had to fight so hard for it, which made it mean so much more to me, but getting to feel that easy, home-y happiness, made a world of difference for me that day. It eased alot of homeisckness, and I know that God had placed Justin, Elder Maxwell, in my path in high school specifically so he could show up in my mission at the exact moment I needed that comfort he provided. God has a plan. It is so intricate and so perfectly planned. Never think that a single person you meet, or thing you say or do has no consequence, because I am here to tell you, IT DOES. God is a god of perfect order. Everything is for a reason.

The miles wore on and the sun slipped below the horizon. We continued to lose people until the last stop, Roanoke Virginia. There we dropped off Justin and it turns out that his new companion was Elder Hamburg, the boy I rode next to on our flight from Atlanta to Charleston. Because we had our first glimpes of West Virginia together, he will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was so good to get to say hello to him and shake his hand. After that, me, another sister, and two elders got on the last van that would take us to Lexington. It was about an hour ride... and when we got there, I got to meet my new best friend, Sister Pierson. It's kind of a joke that your companion is your forced best friend, but really, we are best friends. She took me to our little apartment; we live in the basement of a member's home. I LOVE where we live. It's adorable!  Sister Pierson helped me hang up pictures above my bed and this apartment just really feels like HOME to me. Sister Pierson feels like a sister. We have so much in common. She is a total tomboy like me and we are constantly laughing! REALLY laughing--good solid belly laughs.

The elders in our area are also really great. Just like in Ashland we have two other sets of elders in our ward, one of which is a set of zone leaders who are amazing. The other elders in our ward are really funny. They have to come through our area sometimes, and my second night here.... we get a weird text from them and hear some weird noises at our door as we are doing training. We go to our door to see what's going on... and find a HUGE pile of leaves blocking our door so we can hardly get out. And then we hear laughing and steps running away and getting in a car. 

Not only are the missionaries and ward members here great.... but EVERYONE is great here.  It feels like home. I wish you could see downtown Lexington. Everything is very colonial and beautiful and almost a little bit hipster. I could live here forever. Virginia Military Academy is right downtown and so you see military men everywhere. But then, here's what really gets me. Our area goes out into Collierstown, and more rural areas. I have literally never seen country as beautiful. It's very different from Ashland. The mountains are bigger, there are more fields and more cows.... more little rivers and.... I can't even describe it. It's heaven. I think maybe I got it wrong, West Virginia is almost heaven because VIRGINIA is heaven! And I got to see my first possum!! They walk really slow and play dead... and they're actually pretty creepy! Apparently Sister Pierson got to have possum stew the other week... So I'm gonna see if I can get me some of that too!  

Lastly, EVERYONE needs to check out "The Lower Lights," it's the unofficial CD of the West Virginia Charleston Mission. Everyone here either has it or has heard it. That music will forever be connected in my heart to the beautiful veiws in Collierstown... and the beauty of this mission. But seriously, check it out. The music is absolutely beautiful. Know that I couldn't be happier. I'm where I'm supposed to be, and I love it. 

My "mom," her mom, and her mom. . .

Kentucky Snowsister

The elders baked me a cake!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

So Good

The more I am out here, the more I realize, God is in everything.  The gospel IS life.  No need to separate the two, because then it makes living the gospel seem hard.  Just be you, have fun, and try to be a good girl or boy.  That's really all there is to it.  The gospel is like a symphony, and we all have different sounding parts, and we live it and love it just a little bit differently.  As long as it's all in tune and harmony, the differences are what make it beautiful.  Be you!

We had an appointment with B----and H----- set up and plans with Sister H-----.  Sister H------is amazing.  She is from the West and served in the West Virginia Charleston Mission like us, and ended up marrying a boy from here, which was her last area.  Anyway, we went to B-----and H------'s and no one answered.  (I'm so used to that at this point.  We get stood up about five times a day it feels like.)  So we got to go visit another investigator.  We had a good visit with her, but on the way back, Sister H---- said some really important things.  She talked to us about the culture here, and how truly different it is than "out West."  

She told us how people out West are taught to put their best self forward, and tend to put on this face of perfection, which is totally true, especially in Utah.  People here don't do that.  The are who they are and they don't hide anything.  It's really beautiful, but because of those cultural differences, it's easy for Southern people to feel like Westerners look down on them.  She gave us this advice--be real.  Don't put on the perfect missionary face.  Work hard and people will see that without you needing to put on any kind of act.  Have interests.  Share what you love with the people, invite them into your space and they will invite you into theirs.  Truly be interested in their lives.  Truly love them.  

The next day we had an experience that made my day.  We were walking down the street and an older man waves at us from his yard.  His big pit bull runs up to the fence and starts barking at us.  He yells to us from his porch, "She's just a big baby.  She won't hurt ya."  So we stop and pet the dog, who turns out to be super sweet.  As we pet her, the man comes over to us.  He's older, I would guess in his 60's, and thin and wiry.  He was sporting a very worn Universtity of Kentucky hat and a plaid shirt over a very worn black t-shirt.  His hair was dark, peppered with grey, as was his scruffy beard.  But his eyes. They were blue, and kind, and they twinkled!  

He started talking to us about his puppy, who you could tell loved the man to the very core.  We spent a few minutes with small talk and petting his dog and then we asked what his name was.  The man took a seat on his lawn and leaned back on his elbows and he grinned and said, B---, B--- K----.  It's my birthday today."  And with that twinkle he added, "I'm 25 today."  After some happy birthday wishes and laughing, he asked us who we were, and of course, we told him.  He told us he was Baptist, and Sister Boldrin said, "Well, we love Jesus Christ just like you."

Then it started.  From this point until we left, B---'s yard that day, the words spoken to me, from B---'s mouth, pricked me to my very core.  I firmly believe that God put me in the path of B--- K---- that day, because B--- K----- was the only one who could tell me what God wanted me to hear.  

B--- looked us both in the face and said, "You girls are doing a good thing.  NEVER LOSE THE FAITH YOU HAVE.  Cling to it your whole life."  That line hit me so deep.  He continued, "You girls are different.  I wish more girls around here were like you."  He went on to explain how sad he thinks it is how so many girls these days fall in love with some boy and get pregnant without getting married, and their babies grow up without a dad.  He told us "You girls don't do that.  Find a good fella and make sure your babies have a good home before they come."  He repeated his line, "NEVER GIVE UP YOUR FAITH," and added, "Stay YOU.  You are good girls.  You don't need to be like everyone else."  In reference to the lack of morals in young girls he added, "If you could just help one of those girls.  Boy, if you could just help one.  After a bit more talking he asked us how old we were.  We said 19 and he looked right at me.  He said, "You still have that little girl in your face.  I know because I've had a little girl.  You've still got it.  You've got the face of a young woman as well though; you've got the best of both worlds.  You're beautiful."  My eyes threatened to tear up.  I've thought a lot about why he would have said that this week, and I'm still not sure, but I definitely left his yard that day feeling like I was worth just a little bit more.  Like I really was a daughter of God.  That being a "good girl" really is a beautiful thing.  God just keeps putting people in my path to tell me how good it is to be good.  Good to be on the Lord's side.  Good to be me.  So good to be in Kentucky. 

What Does Satan Look Like?

 Today we talked to an investigator who taught me more than I taught her.  She asked us this question during our visit:  What does Satan look like?” 

She answered it herself.  “He’s beautiful.  SO beautiful.  No horns and tail.  He is beautiful like that girl, the blonde, 100-pound model on the Harley eating a greasy cheeseburger in the commercial.  He is beautiful like her, and he lies beautifully.  He says we can do things without consequence.  Like the girl—she could never eat that cheeseburger and be that thin.  We want to be that girl, but we eat the cheeseburger, and for us, there are consequences.  We get fat.  And when we get fat, we wonder what is wrong with us?  Why can’t we do what she does and look like her?  Because that is how Satan lies.  He is beautiful.

Yeah, she said that.  And I was in Kentucky to hear that.  Missionaries aren’t always the missionaries.