Monday, February 24, 2014

The Best Journey I've Ever Been On

Aw, man. Don't tell me about skiing. Nothing makes me miss home like
talking about skiing and seeing runners. You find out what you really
love when you leave home. I've found that I miss my family and my
puppy the most, followed closely by running, skiing, and my Utah
mountains. BUT! Good news! Today we're going on a hike for p-day! I'm
so excited! 

My new companion, Sister Tripp, is a powerhouse! Honestly, I don't think it would
be a stretch to say she is the best Sister Missionary in the WVCM. The
way she works, her love and involvement in the people we are teaching,
her great ideas, her never- ending enthusiasm, and her incredible
faith.... man. I am SO lucky to be her companion. I have learned SO
much in the week that we have been together, and we have accomplished
SO much! This week has been one of the best weeks of my mission as
far as numbers, but also as far as REAL success and the progression of

First of all, Sister Tripp and I get along great!! It's been such an
easy transition! I prayed and fasted pretty hard that everything would
be good with this companion switch, and it has been better than I
could ever hope for! Sister Tripp is so fun and hilarious! We have so
much fun! Everything from street contacting to planning is fun with
her. She is so full of great ideas and she LOVES this work and you
can't help but love it, and her, as well!!! She is so awesome, and she
has been through so much to be where she is; she is honestly one of my
heroes! I miss Sister Pierson SO bad though. Driving to T----- and
S-----'s last night was harder than I expected it to be. For the first
time I was going to "mama T----'s" and I didn't have my sister by my
side. Seriously, that girl is the best. BUT! I got a call from her
mid-week because she left her cd!!! It was so fun to talk about
investigators in Ashland! And guess who she met?!?! S----!!!!!!! My
boy S-----! Turns out he is actually moving because HE GOT A
JOB!!!!  I'm so happy I could die! All I wanted was for him to get a job and

get up on his feet! And it gets even better! When he was down in ---------
getting his place to live and everything straightened out, guess who he 
ran into on the street? MISSIONARIES!!!! He ran into to Elders who talked 
to him! Sister Pierson told me that she told him that wasn't just a coincidence 
that happened, and he agreed  :)  So he'll STILL be taken care of! Even
when he goes to ---------! And ---------- is still in my mission! Gah!!! I
can't even tell you how excited I am about that and for him!!!! All I
have to say, is that prayer works. All that has happened with him is a
direct result of prayers of faith from many many people who love him.

Also, this week we have had some nice weather and we've gotten to do a
lot of street contacting in downtown Lexington. First of all, downtown
Lexington, especially main street, is like something out of a dream.
It's like this place was built for me. Main street Lexington reminds
me a lot of main street Park City. It's got that artsy vibe, and it is
just gorgeous. It also has plenty of cute coffee shops, which of
course makes me love it even more.  #HotChocolateEveryDay   Anyway, we've
met some way cool people there, and got the chance to give out lots of
Book of Mormons. That book is so powerful. Even when people are not
interested in what we have to say, when we offer them a Book of Mormon
to read, you can almost see a little light switch flip on in their eyes. I
think something inside everyone, the light of Christ that is within us
all, only has to SEE that book and they are drawn to it because of
it's truth and it's power. It's been really cool to see that first hand this week.

Just last night we got to go see T----- and S----. T---- had just gotten
out of the hospital after going through another round of chemo
yesterday, and they pumped her full of steroids right before she left,
so she was feeling pretty awesome and wanted to have us over before
they wore off, so we of course headed out to Collierstown to see them.
Every time we drive to Collierstown I fall more in love with this
place. The sun was setting, and it was the warmest day we've had in a
long time here in Virginia. I pulled up T---- and S----'s dirt drive,
and even with a new companion by my side, I was still coming home to
the most beautiful place in the world, and I was still with family. 

As I've been out here on my mission, I have seen life in a whole new
perspective. I've seen so much more. I've had the chance to enter
homes, and become part of lives that I would have never had the chance
to otherwise. I've seen the lives of others so close, and I've seen how
deep and real feelings are, and how big an impact every little
action that every person makes has on everyone around them. I really
can't even explain exactly what I'm trying to say in words. I'm
experiencing life out here. But other people's lives. And it sometimes
means more than when I am so caught up in the life I am living myself.
The feelings are deeper, and there is more meaning. And I think I
leave a little piece of me in every home I enter.  I think that's
why I always say that missions are just learning to get your heart
broken. Maybe love is really heartbreak after all. Real love anyway.
Because it requires the breaking of your own heart, to give it to
another. I hope by the end of my mission I'll find words to describe
these feelings and all that I'm learning. More than likely though,
I'll spend my whole life trying to explain it. And really, I'm okay with
that. Because this journey is the best I've ever been on, and I don't
want it to ever stop.

I'm learning so much, and I'm also having so much fun. One funny thing
that happened this week started with District Meeting on Saturday. SisterTripp

and I left the room,  (P.S. Just a thought:  Missions are so weird. I met Sister 
Tripp a week ago, and that very same day we started living together, 
and being together literally 24-7. A week ago we didn't even know what 
each other looked like, and now we spend every second together!) and when
we came back in, Elder Hughes is messing with our phone. We think 
nothing of it until that night. . . at THREE in the morning. . . an alarm on our 
phone goes off with a message... "Hello from Elder Hughes :)" 
#ElderPranks   #We'llGetHimBack   #WelcomeToTheWVCM

Also, I'm honestly really thinking about going to
SVU and running.  I got to talk with Brother D----- ,our landlord,
again and we were talking cross country. Apparently his team is
running times I was running back in high school. I don't think it's just
coincidence that I'm serving here, living under him, and that I feel a
connection to this place like none other.  So.... we'll see where that goes! 

I'm not really one to go off feelings, but I really do just have this feeling
that even after my mission, I'm not gonna be done here, especially not
with Lexington. And I've always felt like I needed to run for a college. 

#DreamBig #LiveSimply

I love you guys so much! I pray for you constantly! Keep skiing and
enjoying those mountains for me! We are actually going on a hike today
with the Elders in our ward, so I'm way excited!!! And tonight a member
is taking us on a ghost tour of Lexington!!!!!! 


For My Grandpas.  #ForestServiceGranddaughter

Monday, February 17, 2014

Now Leap

Elders Blake, Moffet, Proctor, and Ostler, Sister Pierson and Me

The past two weeks have probably been the craziest, and hardest of my mission. I felt worn out to the bone, both physically and spiritually, but honestly, I don't thinkI've ever been happier. It all started with P-Day two weeks ago. That night me and Sister Pierson, (my now ex-companion and best friend in the entire world,) went to go spend the night in Vinton, Virginia with two other Sister Trainer Leader's (STL's) so they could wake up the next morning and go to Mission Leadership Conference in Roanoke. I spent that night on a yoga
mat on a hardwood floor. We had to leave Vinton by 5:00 a.m. so we could be in Blacksburg by 6:00 to pick up another STL and drop me off with Sister Reed (my awesome MTC companion.) I then spent the day working in Blacksburg. We had NO set appointments, so we tracted ALL DAY. And it was FREEZING. They say the more you tract the hotter your husband gets, so all I'm gonna say, is my husband is probably real good looking by now!  :)  That night when all the STL's got back to Blacksburg, and I was tired and hungry to the core, we went to the waffle house right off the campus of Virginia Tech. We were pretty much the only ones in there and our server took a picture of us and posted it to the Blacksburg Waffle
instagram account, so you should check out @blacksburgwaffle on instagram and see if I'm there!  

I missed being with Pierson all day; we are seriously best friends. I can't tell you what a blessing it's been to serve with not only an amazing missionary, but my best friend. On
the hour drive back to Lexington from Vinton that night, Sister Pierson and I listened to a CD of Elder Holland's talk about the atonement given to missionaries at MLC. It is the most amazing talk I have ever heard. I'm working on getting a copy I can send home. We cried the whole way home. The tears started because of the talk. It's the most beautiful thing I have ever heard, but then we cried because on the mission, there is so much emotion, and sometimes it just needs to come out. We cried because we knew we were exactly where we were supposed to be, and because we knew that when we first saw each other in that Lexington, Virginia parking lot, it was definately not the first time we had met. We cried because this work is hard. In the words of Elder Holland, "I am convinced that missionary work is not easy, because SALVATION IS NOT A CHEAP EXPERIENCE." This is the best, and hardest, funniest, most exciting, most heartbreaking experience I have ever had. I was supposed to come on a mission.

I think I said this when I left Ashland, but I still believe that the majority of missionary work is learning how to live with a broken heart. A mission is full of beautiful heartbreak. It happens daily. Working with people, REALLY working with them, and working with yourself and with God, I've found it requires your whole soul and whole heart. And once given to the work, your heart will without a doubt get broken. But it's beautiful. Because it isn't until your heart is  broken, that the atonement can fill back in all the little cracks and holes that this life and this work creates.

I don't have much time to fill in the details, but what follow are some of the  crazy things that we did the past couple weeks:

*  I slept on the same air mattress as Sister Pierson in Lynchburg and had to wake up and teach in a Zone Conference for half an hour with her.  
*  Sang at a funeral with Sister Pierson the next morming after driving to Lynchburg, dropping off the Sister I was on exchanges with, and picking up Pierson and bringing her back from Lynchburg. 

*  We taught in a Zone Conference one hour after we sang at the funeral, giving us only
half an hour to prepare. 

*  Woke up and helped set up for our ward Valentines dance, then spent a few hours volunteering at RARA (the food pantry,) then back to the church to keep helping T---- and S---- set up. (They have been called to the ward activities committee!!) That night we spent helping out with the Valentines party and dance.  Sister Pierson was probably the best Valentines date I've ever had :)

This week has been crazy too. Transfers were supposed to happen Thursday, but were pushed back to Saturday because of the crazy storm that came in Wednesday night. Wednesday night President called and told everyone to stay in because a huge storm was coming. We drove back to our house as it started to snow, only to find our mailbox was
gone. . . . and a truck was upside down on our lawn. Our cop landlord was there to save the day, and luckily the driver was totally fine. The next day was P-Day but we weren't allowed to drive our cars. Everything was COVERED in snow and the whole city was shut down.

We got with the Elders and walked the mile to the church to send off a few emails telling our families we were safe. Then we went sledding!!!! It was honestly probably the most fun P-Day of my mission. We sledded and sledded and made a snowman (they put a bun on it's head and my name tag on it and made it a Sister Lytle snowman!) and threw snowballs until we were so cold we thought we would die, and Elder Ostler's toes were black! It was so fun though! That night we went out with the men in the ward and shoveled walks and driveways for older people.  We also shoveled the church sidewalks. It was so cool to see those men work, and just serve their ward with such love.

On Monday of this past week we got to do a really fun service project with our District. We went to this old civil war house called the Paxton House in Buena Vista and helped refurbish windows!  How cool will it be to take my kids back one day when it's finished and say that I helped re-do it?? We were using heat guns to scrape off paint and Sister Pierson was totally joking and saying "This is the most fun I've had in years!!" And Elder Hughes (who is now on the last transfer of his mission) looks at her and says, "Hey now, that's actually true for me." 

Elders Moffet, Huges, and Blake
The next day we spent all day shoveling. And when I say all day, I literally mean all day. (Except for our lunch break where we got to go to Walmart to pick up food because we weren't able to drive on our actual P-Day, and we randomly ran into T---- and S---- and they
invited us over for beef stew and yorkshire pudding!!!  #Score  #BestLuckEver) We just shoveled random people's walks and driveways and would leave cards on their door or car or whatever. It was so fun! We also did a few members' homes as well. It was a blast but we were all so sore and had so many blisters.

Getting to spend Pierson's last evening with the H---------'s was so perfect, especially since it was Valentines Day. That night Sister Pierson and I cried together as we laid in our beds in our little apartment for the last time together. We got to see a baptism together, but more than that, we got to see each other be saved over and over again. I can't even begin to express
how much I have learned from Lexi Pierson, or what an amazing woman she really is. You all will have to meet her someday, I think that's the only way you can really understand the depth of the person she 
really is.

Sister Pierson gave me her dress before she left. Her blue one with polka dots that I loved so much. She loved it too.  She gave it to me with tears in her eyes and said to me, "When it comes time for you to go home, I want this dress to be tattered and torn, and I want you to be so tired, and so worn out. Because I want you to give everything you have to your mission, and I want you to do it because you love the Lord."

Sister Pierson knew how to give everything she had. And she did it for all the right reasons. And I will take her example not only with me for the rest of my mission, but for the rest of my life.

On the tag of the dress, she drew a butterfly. Sister Pierson and I talked a lot about finding ourselves, and making our own wings, which is funny, because butterflies have always been my thing. We had this quote on our wall that said, "She took the leap, and built her wings on the way down." We took the leap, we came on missions, and we got to build our wings together. We would often talk about how we constantly have to be taking the next leap and next step, and 

we learn from trial and error, and we build our wings on the way down.

Under the butterfly she wrote, "Now leap."

Coming on the mission was the best leap I have ever taken.

P.S. Sister Tripp is my new companion and she is AMAZING!!! She is from Cedar City and loves the outdoors too!!! She came in Saturday night, and the next morning we woke up and had to teach in Relief Society! Also that morning . . . our shower was broken!!!

Not again!  I'm starting to think this is the go-to Elders prank.

P.P.S.  We got stuck in the mud on our way home from my favorite less-active's house.  We called the Elders to help get us un-stuck, but they couldn't get us out.  Then we had to call the bishop to bring his big truck to pull us out.  So glad, mom, that you had me get the gore-tex boots.  SO glad!

Yeah, we went mudding.  Accidentally.

Pierson and Moffet on the Highway waiting for the Bishop
It's all good!

Monday, February 3, 2014

It's All Worth It. Everything.

Downton Abbey and superbowl food huh? I'm so proud. Since you brought up the superbowl.... I have a small confession to make. T---- and S---- invited us over to have wings and all sorts of yummy superbowl food (T---- is such an incredible cook) and the superbowl may or may not have been on in the other room the whole time. #BadInfluences #GoBroncos
This week has been incredible. Especially this weekend. It all started Friday.

Friday Sister Pierson and I had NO appointments. Not one set appointment, which doesn't happen a whole lot here in Lexington. We usually at least have one set appointment. So we planned to go see a few people and do a lot of knocking doors and street contacting. So we go out and no one is answering, but we seriously just had so much fun. We stopped to swing on swings and take pictures at all the funny street signs and just enjoyed the work! We always play Door Knocking Roulette (Our version of Russian Roulette.)  We just knock every other door no matter if someone answers or not. It was the first nice day in quite a while and we just really enjoyed being missionaries! We seriously have the coolest job in the world! We get to go around, meeting all kinds of crazy people, and making them happy! That's fetching awesome! ("fetch" is a terrible missionary thing I've picked up. EVERY missionary says that out here.) Anyway, we had a great day and ran into some crazy people and at the end of the day we picked up a new investigator!!! She is a great  black woman who works at Virginia Military Institute and her name is F-------. Apparently she talked with missionaries before, way back in the day! She is SUPER southern! I left her with a prayer, and as I'm praying she's going "mmmhmmm, amen, mmhmm"  It was so awesome! I wish we did that in church!

Funny story about closing prayers though. A few days before we were at another  lady's house, and I'm leaving a prayer with her, and I'm talking about Christ and then I go to close my prayer, and instead of saying "In the name of Jesus Christ, amen" I had just been talking about Jesus so I say "In his name we pray, amen." #PrayingLikeAProtestant #I'veBeenInTheSouthTooLong

Also that day, we knocked on one of our other investigator's doors. She didn't answer but later that day we were walking past her house and she was out on the porch. We talked to her a little and she asked if we had been there earlier. We were like "yeah," and she says, "Oh girls, you gotta knock loud when you come here! You gotta knock like you da po-po!!!" We laughed pretty hard about that. She's the same one who almost stabbed us with a fork.

Friday night we got to eat at the Bishop's house. Bishop's house is only second to T---- and S----'s on feeling like home. We just ordered pizza and hung out with their kids and their son Z--- even made us these cool little bracelets out of little rubber bands. I'll send pictures because it's awesome! He didn't finish them until Sunday and we were in the foyer greeting people with the other missionaries in our ward when Z--- brings them to us.  We were thanking him and telling him how awesome he is, and Elder Ostler says, "I know he's cute Sisters, lock your hearts." Haha!

The next day was Saturday, and we decided to go to COLLIERSTOWN!!!! So of course I was pretty pumped. It was a gorgeous day and I was SO happy. We had planned to see T---- and S---- later that evening. It was weird though----- we hadn't seen them in almost two weeks because they had been sick the week before and couldn't feed us or come to church, and T---- hadn't answered any of our texts this week. We thought it was weird, but didn't think too much of it. So as we're driving out to Collierstown, Sister Pierson says, "let's go visit T---- and S---- first," and I agree. It just felt right, even though they are the farthest out and we NEVER go see them first. We pull up to their house and hear the dogs barking as we walk up to the door. It sorta feels like we should just walk right in since it seems so much like home there. S---- answered the door with his big smile and I almost died. It had been way too long not seeing them.

We walked into their home and the sun was just pouring in their big windows. It felt like heaven. T---- and S---- were just chilling on the couch with S-----, and when Sister Pierson and I sat in our seats (we have seats that are OURS now!) B---- came over and got on my lap. I can't explain it, but there is a connection we have to T---- and S---- that goes far beyond anything that could be from on earth alone. I knew them in heaven. Of that I'm sure. We just sat and chatted for a while and shared a little scripture. It felt so good. So right. It was such a simple visit but it was SO SO good. We left with huge smiles on our faces, as we always do, just as the sun began to set. Life as a missionary is so good. I'm the luckiest girl alive.

I started my fast after lunch that day, and later that night we were at a member's home to teach her kids the disscussions, because bishop has asked us to teach all the youth in the ward the discussions. She is SUCH a good cook and she offered us dinner. I'm bad at fasting in the first place, but her offering us that food was SOOO tempting. It made it even worse because Sister Pierson said yes! She hadn't started her fast yet! So I awkwardly had to sit as everyone else ate. I knew I needed this fast though.

The next morning I was so fetching hungry and it felt like it was the hardest fast ever! We went to church and S---- got to bless the sacrament for the first time!!! It was so exciting! He looked so good and he didn't even mess up! But then, he did something else. S---- got up, the very last person, and bore his testimony. (He and T---- call bearing their testimony "testifying". They're so funny.) He started out talking about their conversion, T----'s cancer, the blessing she received..... I was already getting choked up. Then, he started talking about "his Sisters." For the first time on my mission, I got to hear my name, Sister Lytle, come from the mouth of an investigator standing at the pulpit, after having entered into the covenant of baptism. He looked down at us, me, Sister Pierson, and T---- all in the back of that Lexington Chapel. S----, the tough construction worker, with tears in his eyes, he looked at us and said, "Sister Pierson, and Sister Lytle, thank you. I love you girls." I looked at Sister Pierson and we both looked at T----. Tears were running down all of our faces. And then, Sister Pierson grabbed T----'s hand, and I grabbed both of theirs. We held onto each other as S---- finished his speaking, bearing the most powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon. That moment, made every hard thing, not only on my mission, but in my entire life, every difficulty I have gone through that has led me to that Lexington Chapel with a name tag on my chest, it made it all worth it. Everything.

This gospel, this is what happiness is. It's the truth. And if you're looking for true joy, you need not look any further. Because it's right here.

But the story doesn't end there. Later in Releif Society, T---- was asked to bear her testimony. She was crying before she even began. She started out with her conversion a little, and then she said, "The Sisters don't even know this," and the tears came even faster, "but this week we found out that our costs for my treatments have doubled. And we didn't see any way we could pay them." With S----t's job and all the problems with the government, T---- and S---- have been having to pay for her cancer treatments themselves, with no insurance help. This week it went up. T---- told how she and S---- had fought about it all week. She had wanted to stop treatments. To just give up. She didn't see any way they could pay, and she didn't want to leave S---- not only without a wife, but without a home or money as well. Her cancer has no cure. She will have to have treatments forever. There is no guarantee of how long she will live even with treatments.

She said she had felt that way, like giving up, until, on Saturday, her missionaries showed up. She said that just our presence, just our spirit, and the simple bible verse we shared, had completely changed her views. It was no coincidence that we had decided to go to their house first that day. Coincidences do not exist. 

T---- is the strongest woman I know, and S---- is the best man that has ever lived. The gospel has literally saved their lives, and I can't believe the Lord let me be there to see it, and learn from it, and love them.

I'm the luckiest girl in the world.


Eat and Run