Saturday, December 13, 2014

Please Can I Keep It?


We had a really, really incredible week. Last night we taught a family. . . and they want to get baptized! We invited them to be baptized and they said yes, we just don't have a date yet. The grandma recently had a really bad stroke and just got out of the hospital, so we can't really set a solid date until she’s doing a little better. It was sooo amazing though.

It honestly was a killer week. Things are picking up like crazy. It's actually been amazing, because I can see how my increased commitment has directly affected the work. It's not even so much that I'm doing that much better, because I still make a million mistakes every day, but I feel so much like my heart and desires are truly in the right place and because those things are in line, the atonement makes up for all my imperfections. I'm starting to understand the atonement so much more deeply. It's so beautiful. I never want to go home because I want to feel this kind of progression forever and ever. This mission is the best thing that has ever happened to me!

Our ward mission leader has a new baby donkey at his house!

Elder Signs and Sister Maddox

Elder Markowski 

The Elders gave me a hacky sack for my birthday

I really, really need one of these!
(Signs, Maddox, Me, Ramirez, Markowski

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"I Don't Think it's Just a Coincidence."


We were out tracting one afternoon because everything fell through and it was SOOOOOO cold. Like, we wanted to cry a little. We were knocking doors and no one was answering.  At the end of the hour we were walking back to our car, and we see this weird looking dude standing on a street corner with his hood up and honestly, he looked a little creepy to me. He seemed to be around his late 20's  and didn't seem to be paying attention to much of anything.

We decided to talk to him anyway, so we say hello and start walking over to him. He starts to say, “What are you pretty ladies doing out in the cold?" in a really low, kind of slow voice. In my head I'm like, "Oh great. This is going to be interesting." And then before we can start talking to him, a dude in a car pulls up and calls out to him and asks him if he knows where a certain street is, so we awkwardly wait while that conversation happens. Finally he turns
back to us. We're able to introduce ourselves and start to tell him what we're doing, but THEN a bus pulls up and a little girl jumps off and runs over to the guy we're talking to. She hugs him and he hugs her back and introduces her as his daughter. The little girl didn't let go, and kept holding on to her dad and looking up at us with big brown eyes. All of a sudden my heart softened and I began to see this man a little differently.

We started up a conversation with him and we get talking a little bit about the Book of Mormon. Sister Maddox had one in her hand and his eyes get a little glimmer in them as he looks at it and he asks, "Are you passing these out?" Big smiles come across all our faces as we give him the Book of Mormon. He proceeds to tell us how he's been recently trying to turn his life around and how he's back in school and working for a cement place and he now has custody of his little girl. He began to tell us more of his story and the way he was raised.  As he started talking, he covered his little girl's ears as he told us how his father was abusive and a drug addict and how he didn't want his daughter to grow up in a home like that. He uncovered her ears and hugged her a little closer.

Long story short, he wanted what we have, and he realized that. This next week we'll go back and teach him. It was a good lesson to me on not making judgments on first impressions. It was also just such a beautiful conversation. The spirit was there and you could feel it. He even said at the end, "I don't think it's just a coincidence that we met today." No C------, it wasn't. Because you and I are exactly where we need to be.

(Oh!!! Also, our atheist D------- has now not only decided that he's going to act as if God is real, but he finally understands that he really just needs to find out if the Book of Mormon is true and that will answer all the crazy little questions he always asks! He progresses really slowly, but it's so fun to watch!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Soft Hearts


My studies have been just incredible lately. Every morning we wake up and all of a sudden I look more forward to studies than running. That's crazy for me. I'm almost addicted to the gospel it feels like! I'm learning so many things and they're hitting me so deep. One thing I learned this week came from President Salisbury. We had interviews on Thursday and it was beautiful. My first questions to him were, "How is Sister Simmons, and how is Sister Snyder?" It took him a minute to realize, then he was like, "Oh! You were in the Morgantown trio!" He proceeded to tell me that he had totally forgotten about that. I cannot express to you how wonderful that was to hear. Like I have many times before with President Pitt, Through President Salisbury, I was able to learn more about the Lord. Just like President didn't remember those challenging times, I know without a doubt that the Lord remembers our mistakes no more when we repent.

We also had a wonderful conversation about courage, and finding our voice. As a missionary, we HAVE to open our mouths. It's our job. So we must find our voice. It's always bothered me, because I am in no way shape or form a bold person. President gave me some insight on this. He told me how almost every problem or trial we have to overcome and our ability to overcome it, comes down to the idea of whether we face it with a hard or soft heart. Fear is a hard-hearted feeling. We worry what others might think and turn inward. But he said, "Look what happens when we face a scary situation with a soft heart. Instead of being afraid to talk to someone on the street, we look at that person and we love them. Soft hearted people compliment and love. All of a sudden the fear is gone and we just want to love. And when we express true love, people will feel that love and they will not reject it." So when you look at your problems or your fears, look at your heart first, and ask if it is soft or hard. And if it's hard, soften it. We have the agency to make that decision ourselves.

We also had a conversation about loving versus lifting. We often want to lift others, but as we  attempt to lift, it has the tendency for others to feel that if they need to be lifted, they must be lower than us, then their dukes come up and no progress is made. But if we just love, then the magic can happen, and they are lifted in the process.

We also had a kind of cool moment with our atheist yesterday. He asked us if we did some sort of charity that was in no way connected to a church or religion in any way, if we would still feel the spirit. We were able to explain to him that, yes! Of course we would! I've learned more deeply on my mission that there is no separation between religion, and secular life. There is only truth, and not truth. The gospel is truth, and therefore I have made it part of my life. It's completely inseparable from me. It is in everything I do and feel and am. God is with me when I teach, he is with me in the chapel at church, he is with me when I run the streets of Proctorville in the early morning light, he's with me in the hills of Ohio and he was with me in Morgantown, and Pikeville, and Virginia. He was with me even when I didn't want him there. He has always been there. And he will never leave, because I am his child. He is with those I teach, and he loves them. I feel that so deeply. He's with our atheist when he doesn't believe in God, and he's with A------- when she feels alone. Mosiah 4:9 says, “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”

God is real. And he loves us. So much that he sent his son. They are both so real and so alive. And we can have a relationship with them if we put in the effort. Putting in that effort that will make all the difference. I am so happy here in the WVCM. Happier than I ever knew I could be. I stumbled upon my call letter the other day, and a promise that was made to me by prophetic authority. Something along the lines of "more happiness than you have ever before experienced" would await me as I served the Lord.

Well. It was true. This gospel is true.  It’s also true that I love y'all more than words can explain.

"Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong, 
West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country roads."

Monday, November 10, 2014

To Feel and See God's Love


So let me tell you about this week. Sometimes the mission is hard. You can go for days with every appointment falling through and end the week with no investigators at church. . . again. You can put your whole heart and soul into a lesson and somehow, it doesn't seem to matter. After a while it's hard not to feel worn down, and wonder how much longer, how much more you're going to have to give, for something to happen. And, sometimes, it's hard not to wonder why you're in the WVCM and not in Mexico, where every time a door is knocked here in West Virginia, ten people are baptized in Mexico. Sometimes it's hard, and not to say that there isn't something fabulous and beautiful and necessary in that hardship, but it's hard all the same. And it makes you wonder what's wrong, why you're not good enough, why these people can't see past the world to see the truth we have. And sometimes. . . God answers all your questions.

Sometimes, miracles happen. The first part of this week we weren't able to get a hold of A-------. We were worried that her less-active friend had anti'ed her and that she wasn't interested anymore or something bad like that had happened. Until Thursday. We texted A------- and invited her to lunch with us and a member in our ward, who goes to Marshall as well, named F------. She finally texts back and says she wants to come! So we're pumped and the next day we pick her and her roommate up and go to this sweet little cafe place called "The Black Sheep" right off of campus. The day was cold and gray. . . and so was A--------. She wasn't her bubbly usual self. It was kind of heartbreaking to go from the day she came to church, and her face, and our connection when she told us that we had to stay in Huntington and couldn't get transferred because "she needed us,"  to this closed off girl I barely even knew.

We got our food and her roommate, N-----,  was happy and conversational while A------- was much more quiet. After a bit, N----- had to leave, but A-------- stayed with us. When N---- left, A------- started asking a few more questions. She asked things about the nature of God and such, and then she asked something that caught us off guard. She looks at us and asks, "Do you all ever have. . . dreams?" We look at each other and we're like, "Well yeah, we have dreams." She proceeds to say, "Like, dream dreams. Or like visions sort of, you know?" We all kind of look at each other and sort of start to say no, but then she continues. She says, "I had this dream. I was talking to a woman who I admire very much and she's very educated and devoted to religion. I was telling her that I wished there was something as pure as Christ and his doctrine on earth today. And when I said that, she just says to me, "There is." And the dream ended.

For a moment, the music in the little restaurant was gone. All the people at the tables around us didn't exist. All I could feel was the spirit like a blanket over us. Chills ran up and down my spine. Yes A------! There is!!! Before we could really say anything, she continued, "I don't know if you all could tell, but I haven't been my usual self lately." She went on to tell us how things have been so hard recently. She's been struggling with depression and just felt so unlike herself. Her eyes got misty as she related her stories to us, and so did mine. My heart has never gone out to someone as mine did to her that day. I'm understanding more and more what Christ meant when he asked us to "mourn with those that mourn".

She told us how just as things got hard, she began getting texts and calls from Mormon missionaries. And she realized this wasn't a coincidence. She told us she felt like God really wanted her right now. Like he was calling to her. She told us she wanted to meet with us more, but she didn't want to impose herself upon us. We almost laughed as we told her that we would give anything to do that, that that was exactly what WE wanted. We bore testimony, we comforted her, we loved her, but really, we didn't do that much. We were just there. God did all the work. I wish you could have been there to feel the spirit that was there--to be a part of this miracle. To listen and see how much God loved this 18-year-old girl from Charleston, West Virginia. How he placed everyone so perfectly in order for her to be able to hear his word. To FEEL and SEE his love.

God loves A-------. And he loves me. And he loves you. And miracles happen. The whole time I felt a little like a missionary in one of those missionary stories. You know, the ones that General Authorities tell. The ones that never happen in YOUR life. I felt like miracles like this were too big to fit into my little life, but it turns out, that there are no miracles too big for ANYONE'S life. We're children of God, remember? Miracles happen. But you have to be at the right place at the right time doing the right thing. And I know that I am. I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. A------- was meant to be part of my life, and I a part of hers.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Halloween Shenanigans

Pumpkin Carving District Meeting

We've had a great week! We had the ward Trunk or Treat, then this weekend was stake conference! I've been to this stake's stake conference every time they've had it since I was in Ashland! It was so fun to see everyone from Ashland and Pikeville! I was so happy!

Sister Boldrin and Scarff--Trunk or Treat

Elders Carter and Blakely

Elders Rowley and Ramirez

Missionaries?  Prophets?  General Authorities?  You Decide.

Huntington 1st Ward Missionary Family

Elders Steed and Signs

Monday, November 3, 2014

Teaching on a Mountaintop


Good news!!!! I am staying another transfer here in Proctorville with Sister Maddox! I'm dying of happiness! I could not have gotten any luckier! Except I did! Because both sets of Elders in my ward are also staying together!  We'll have Halloween and Thanksgiving together with our little Huntington missionary family! I'm so happy!

We taught a lesson on top of the mountain this week.  We were actually looking for a less active family. The address took us WAY the heck out to the county line and out into the sticks. I wish you could have driven with us. The day itself was beautiful, and it's fall, REALLY FALL out here now. I hate to break this to you, but y'all don't even know what fall is out there in Utah. The hills are on fire. The yellows and reds and oranges paint every hill you see. Even the air is on fire, with gorgeous yellow and red leaves swirling through it. The air is starting to get cold; the sweaters and jackets are coming out, and the smell. I don't know if it's the humidity or what, but smells here are deeper and richer... and maybe a little more alive. You can smell that it's fall everywhere you go. The air is heavy and chilly and everything smells like leaves and autumn. 

I can't help it, but it takes me back to Ashland a year ago. My heart and soul were in a very different place at this time a year ago, but my feet were walking the tri-state area just like I am now. I miss Ashland sometimes, the people, the good times, and really, I miss the hard times. I had never felt feelings so deep and real and intense as I did then, even when they hurt. There's something beautiful about FEELING. No matter if it's pain or joy. I guess it's all part of being alive, and on this beautiful earth. Opposition in all things you know?

Anyway, we drove out to this less-active member's home and knocked on their door as the sun set over the hills and made all the fall colors even that much richer. No one answered so we went to the house next door. It was down the road a bit, so we walked along the highway until I heard a familiar sound. I've heard it so many times. It was a deep smacking sort of sound, almost like a gunshot far away, but you could tell that it was close. 

The sound reminds me of my childhood, with the family in the back yard, and it reminds me of rendezvous, and all the time spent with Yance and those boys I love so much on the archery course. I immediately recognized it as an arrow connecting with a target. We walk a bit more and see a man shooting his compound. We wave and the man walks over to us. He's older, and his quiver is at his hip. I already fell in love with him before any of us opened our mouths. We talked to him first about his neighbors and then we got talking about who we were and what we did. As we began into the restoration, we could tell this man was very familiar with his bible, and that he was sincerely listening to what we were saying. The lesson flowed beautifully that evening as the sun set,  He asked perfect questions and the spirit gave us the answers. As we parted that day, I breathed in that Appalachian air and watched the sun go down while we walked away, and I had never felt so ALIVE. We would be going back. 

God knew what he was doing when he sent me here. I'm convinced I already knew these people, and I was specifically prepared to meet and love each one of them. My mission was planned years in advance, much before I even thought of going on one. And then, as if my heart could handle any more happiness, I had that thought, the one that comes so often on my mission---it came almost as if a whisper---and it said... "You're exactly where you're supposed to be."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Mason Lodge


This week. . . we taught the restoration. . . IN A MASON LODGE!!!!
Then, we helped make apple butter at the lodge.  It was quite the production, and possibly the most fun thing of my life!

We also got to teach these three young girls on Marshall campus and clear up all their weird misconceptions about Mormons.  They are at such a great age, and they are all really seeking.  One of them is Baha’i, and she is responsible for my favorite quote of the week: 
               "People have like, auras ya know? And I really like your-alls."

Pressing the apples

The apple butter cooking
Filling the jars
Putting on the lids
Check out our Masonic aprons!