Monday, September 21, 2015

Called to Serve

Wow.  Is this real life?
The process of choosing to come on a mission was incredible in and of it self.  Actually being a missionary was infinitely more incredible.
Being a missionary has taught me, well, a lot.  I didn't know how much I could grow and change and love and laugh and cry.  I want to tell y'all about some things I learned from each month, each area and each companion.
January 2014:  I spent the last two and a half days of January getting used to wearing my name tag and kind of freaking out about being a missionary.
Sister Crane and I the first night at the MTC
February 2014: I left my Utah mountains and the incredible experience at the MTC and entered North Carolina.  I experienced and ice storm, taught my first lessons as a missionary and had adventures with Sister Brunner.  I also met some of the people who would shape my mission, the Hendersons, the Winters, the Daniels and the Zimlinghaus.  I learned how important goals are and how faith and prayers change everything.

Sister Brunner and I had matching water bottle and bags
At the Provo temple.  I love my name tag(:
March 2014:  I experienced total heartbreak upon learning that we could no longer talk to Rachel, followed by the peace that only comes from the Savior.  I started to learn how to find joy and keep going, even when things are hard and sad.  I experienced one of the most intense lessons of my mission with the Zimlinghaus.  I fell in love with Kawanda and her family and her sketchy neighborhood.  I learned to trust the Lord in every aspect of my life.
Our super trust super hero shirts

I love the popcorn trees!

April 2014: I fell in love with being a missionary.  I loved biking and teaching and members and all of it.  I felt like I was learning and starting to figure it all out.  I also attended the Raleigh temple for the first time and enjoyed General Conference and Easter(:  I spent the last week of April in Duke hospital with my mom learning about the Priesthood and prayer and how important family is.

Easter with the Sprauges

The Temple!
May 2014: I learned it was okay to need help, to slow down and to struggle.  I experienced love and strengthened relationships.  I continued to love teaching and seeing miracles.  I was amazed by the faith of those we taught.

At Duke
Just a moment in the everyday part of being a missionary

June 2014: I saw Jenny and Timothy change so completely.  I freaked out over a text from Rachel.  I listened to Elder Coorbridge.  I spent a night in the hospital.   I witnessed two incredible baptisms.  I learned that allowing Heavenly Father to raise my vision creates more happiness than I ever imagined.
Rachels baptsim

Kawanda's baptism with the Rasmussens

July 2014:  I learned to really pray.  I saw two more incredible baptisms.  I learned that family is so much more than blood.  I came to know of a surety that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us deeply.  I also learned that I didn't actually know what hot was...
Cassie's baptism with Lydia

Amy's baptism

August 2014: I learned how quickly life can change.  I learned that sometimes, you just need your family.  I learned to trust God's plan and I experienced another side of the atonement.
packing to go home

Leaving NC

September 2014: I returned to my mission and saw that miracles are real life as I watched Josh Zimlinghaus be baptized.  I was reminded of the blessings of living prophet and apostles during general conference and realized that obedience is sooo important.
The temple!

Josh's baptism with his family and Brother Villereal

October 2014: I said goodbye to Apex and came to love Cameron.  I learned a whole new vocabulary as I tried to understand all the military words.  I learned not to judge anyone by their looks from Cathy, my unlikely best friend.  I learned to make biscuits and gravy and that military families are incredible.
Visiting Violet after she got a pacemaker

Being pirates for Halloween

November 2014: I celebrated turning 20 while serving the Lord.  I continued to meet people who changed me.  I realized that I couldn't imagine my life without the Nielsens or the Chamberlains or the Naylors.  I learned that Heavenly Father works in mysterious ways. I received sweet personal revelation and was so sick of turkey after 7 thanksgiving dinners in 5 days(:
Sister Mortimer and I loved being outside!

My birthday cake and match(:

December 2014:  I realized that the Spirit is a HUGE blessing in my life.  I learned about faith in a totally new way as my district asked for and saw miracles from the Lord. I learned that Heavenly Father will always provide.  I was blessed to come to know the Savior a little bit better while bouncing from house to house. I learned to be grateful in every circumstance.
The ward Christmas party and Santa

Being Christmas trees for ugly sweater district meeting

January 2015:  I saw again and again how Heavenly Father provides.  I saw how He uses our experiences to bless others.  I learned the secrets to Mexican food and yoga.  I realized how much I love being a missionary.
I am forever grateful that the Nielsens let us live with them

The Barber girls at Sariahs baptism

February 2015:  I learned that trios make life more interesting and adventurous. I learned that it does snow in North Carolina.  I saw how trying new and different things brings blessings.  I saw how everyone can change.  I learned to make Sushi and hair bows and I said goodbye to my Cameron friends.
Our trio and pet eye "Henry B. EYEring"

The snow on transfer day!

March 2015:  I realized that Lumberton is a different world.  I learned about forgiveness.  I learned that trusting in and working with your Priesthood leaders is important.  I learned that laughing is the best medicine.
On exchange with Amber

Contacting at the flea market

April 2015:  I again realized that General Conference is such a blessing, as are Priesthood blessings.  I learned that charity and patience only come when sought after and prayed for.  I learned that dirt roads are always an adventure.  I learned that miracles come when we work hard.
Bernadette, Sister Pruner, Ninoska, Me, Leonor and Fraceska before Conference

Sister Rushton, Sister Carlile and I at the temple

May 2015:  I saw that often, the call to "invite others" often means your companion.  I learned that the refiners fire is real, but that just as the Jaredites learned, the winds always blow towards the promised land.  I remembered how sacred baptism is as I helped prepare two of my best friends for their baptisms.  I learned that asking too many questions allows Satan to destroy faith.
Flying our kites during a tropical storm

Sister Carlile and I

June 2015:  I saw how revelation comes only when we are ready.  I saw a family change as Noel and Chloe were baptized.  I ended the Sister Training Leader chapter of my mission and started the trainer chapter.  I learned about humility.  I recognized the Lords timing as the best way to accomplish anything.
Noel and Chloes baptsim

Our primary class

July 2015:  I learned the best ways to kill bugs, discovered the best public restrooms and cried over others heartbreaks.  I learned that sometimes words fail, but the Spirit never does as several times we were able to represent Jesus Christ by just being there.
Helping at the city's 4th of July event

We went modest shopping with Kiara

August 2015: I saw miracles when Devon and Darrien were finally able to be baptized.  I learned that attitude changes everything.  I was reminded the power of diversity and how beautiful the blending of cultures is in the Gospel.
Devon and Darrien's baptism with their family, the Bishop and Brother Jones

Sister James and I had matching necklaces, so we had to take a picture

September 2015:  I learned to trust my Heavenly Father.  I learned that revelation rarely comes repeatedly and powerfully.  I learned that goodbyes and changes make life sweeter, not more miserable.  I realized how the goodness of life is often in the everyday details, not so much in the big and wonderful moments.  I saw how much more I have become as I have allowed my Heavenly Father to change me.
The Pope/Carlyle family 
Sister Beard and I at the temple.  I love her.

Apex taught me that miracles are real life, that being patient brings blessings and that the promise of "angels on your right and on your left" often means other people.
Cameron taught me about humility, it taught me about heros and family.  In Cameron I learned that Heavenly Father will always provide a way for those who actively follow Him.
Sanford (for the 2 weeks) taught me about ministering to the one and about being willing to serve however you are needed.
Lumberton taught me about revelation and organization.  Here, I gained a testimony of the power of a church run not by men, but by God.  I saw how there is no race, financial or social status required to come unto Christ.
Sister Crane taught me about the blessings of obedience.
Sister Brunner taught me how to be a missionary, more through her actions than her words.  She taught me about charity and faith.  She showed me that being myself is the best person to be.
Sister Eastwood taught me to not take life to seriously.  She taught me about relating to people on a personal level.
Sister Mortimer taught me what it looks like to love everyone.  She taught me about the military and about following every prompting.
Sister Arave taught me about studying the scriptures.  She taught me about being willing to say the hard things and how prayer is often the best way to teach.
Sister Richardson taught me that my words can quickly build or destroy.  She taught me what it looks like to give your whole self to the Lord.  She taught me what it looks like to stick it out when things are hard.
Sister Pruner taught me about forgiveness.  She taught me about Canada and about recognizing every miracle.  She taught me about loving people where they are.
Sister Carlile taught me about enduring.  She showed me how important focusing on individual needs is as well as how a little bit of chocolate makes a huge difference(:
Sister Beard taught me about never giving up on anyone.  She taught me about serving the Lord with passion and about not being complacent with what is happening.

To say I have loved being a missionary wouldn't come close to the depth of my feelings.  I am grateful for the last year and a half.  I am grateful for the relationships I have developed, the people I've met, the scriptures I've learned, the testimony I've strengthened and the person I've become.  I am grateful, most of all, for the Atonement, that has daily made up for my weaknesses, that has allowed me to feel peace and forgiveness and that has allowed me to be more than I ever imagined.  I am grateful for what is to come next, because I know that as I follow the Savior, as I am obedient and as I rely on the Atonement, things will only continue to get better, and if it gets better than this...well, then I want to have those blessings.
Thank you for being a part of my mission.  Thank you for supporting me.  Thank you for praying for me.  Thank you for teaching me.  I LOVE YOU. I love the gospel.  I love my Savior. I love being a missionary.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Family is of God

Since last week, my mind, like many of yours, has been full of the thoughts of marriage and rights.  We have been asked several times what we think about it, and I wanted to share my thoughts here.
First,  I know, without a doubt, that God loves each of us.  I know that in a way that words don't even come close to describing.  I know it because I feel it.  I feel it for me.  And if God, the God of heaven and earth loves me, and hears my prayers and answers them, I know that He loves you too.
Now that isn't to be taken as "God loves me so I can do whatever"  God loves us so He gives us commandments.  When He sent us to earth, He sent us with every single thing we would need to succeed.  He wants us to come back to Him.  He gives us commandments to help us experience true happiness.  They are never given to restrict or punish, only to create opportunities for blessings.  Keeping commandments isn't always easy, often, it is down right hard.  It requires sacrifice and faith.  But, it ALWAYS brings blessings.  ALWAYS.  Every single time we choose to obey a commandment, we get blessings.  Every. Single. Time.
Part of setting us up for success is this principle from the chorus of this primary song:

God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be

My family was handpicked by God to give me what I needed to be who He needs me to be.  We get to be a family so that we can learn to laugh, to support others, to love, to have patience, to stick up for others and to glimpse eternity.  Not only am I talking about my immediate family, but my extended family, my future family and my ancestors.  Together we make a chain of strength and power that allows us to withstand evil and grow to be like God.  My family doesn't look like the "ideal" and honestly, no ones does.  But I totally believe this statement,

"Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Did you catch that?  Most Likely.  There are no promises for perfection, but there is a road map that gives us the highest chance for happiness.  A family that has a mother and a father and is founded upon the teachings of Jesus Christ.
I don't want to sit here and tell you what I am for, or against as far as political or social views or opinions. But there are a few things, that I want to state my opinion on things that go beyond laws and straight to the heart and mind of humans.

I am against people hurting other people, physically or with words.
I am against seeing things that truly matter fall behind things that don't.
I am against living in fear of sharing what I know to be true and being able to live how I choose.
I am against hiding from life, it is hard, but so wonderful.
I am against staying stagnant.  Progression is really happiness.
I am against the destruction of family happiness, which is really societal and personal happiness.
I am against hopelessness, there is ALWAYS hope.
I am against giving up.

I am for praying sincerely and often.
I am for exercising faith, even when it is hard.
I am for setting and achieving goals.
I am for laughing and enjoying life.
I am for kindness.
I am for loving everyone, even if they look or believe different.
I am for worshiping God, however you wish.
I am for honesty.
I am for striving to make the best choices we can with what we know.
And most of all,
I am for relying on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, not only did He die for me, but He set an example, paid the price of my Salvation and then rose from the dead.  For each of us as individuals.
And that truth somehow makes everything else okay.  All the hard, all the sad, all the imperfect and all the unfairness worth it.  God loves us and the final line of the song is,

"This is how He shares His love, for the family is of God."

I know I live in a world that doesn't always agree with me.  But I refuse to let what others believe or do change what I know.  I know that God is in control.  I want to continue to love His children and serve them.  I want to marry and raise a family and teach my children what I know and continue that pattern of love and righteousness.  And I want the highest odds for success, so I will center my family on the teachings of my Savior.

here are some links to things that say this way better than I ever could(:

and, as always, the song! Its a video even!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Look Through My Eyes (from Brother Bear)

Whew.  I only have the title of this blog post and I am already crying, so that either means my ideas will come out with power and meaning, or most likely, they will come out as a random emotional mess.  Best of luck as you read this(:

Wow.  I think about where I was a year ago, and for so many reasons, I am glad I am not there.  Because lets just be honest, having heart surgery isn't exactly high on my "top things to do in life to bring fun and excitement list." I don't actually have that list, but if I did, it wouldn't be on it.  Aside from the fact that I'm not really a fan of surgery/hospitals, the biggest reason that I am glad I am not at Duke like I was a year ago is this:

I am here.

Here doesn't mean in a darling little clerks office in a church in Lumberton, although I am incredibly attached to Lumberton.
Here doesn't mean that I get to wear a black name tag, although I REALLY love that.
Here doesn't mean being with an incredible companion in a fabulous district in an amazing ward. (Do you get that I really love Lumberton-because I do)
Here has nothing to with where I am, what I am doing or who I am with.  It simply has to do with the fact that I am moving forward.  Which really is worth celebrating.
Growth and change mean that there must be a Savior who makes all things possible.  Without a Savior who suffered all things for us, we, I, would be eternally stuck.  Unable to move past hard things and mistakes.  But we are not stuck, we are beings who change and grow and learn. One of the biggest things I have learned in the last year is how incredible a deep relationship with Heavenly Father can be.
This week my mind has often gone to "where I was a year ago" and I remembered the moments. Thursday night in preparation for a meeting the next day, Sister Carlile and I adventured up to Hope Mills .  As we drove, we listened to Disney music and this song came on and brought tears to my eyes.  The Spirit often speaks to me through music and this I felt as if this Disney song, from a movie which I don't actually like very much, knew exactly how I felt.  These words represent to my imperfect human mind a little bit of what my Heavenly Father has taught me in the last year.

Here are some of the words that I just love:

There are things in life you learning
And, oh, in time you'll see
It's out there somewhere, it's all waiting
If you keep believing

So don't run, don't hide
It will be alright
You'll see, trust me
I'll be there watching over you

Just take a look through my eyes
There's a better place somewhere out there
Just take a look through my eyes
Everything changes, you'll be amazed what you'll find
There's a better place if you look through my eyes

There will be times on this journey
All you'll see is darkness
But out there somewhere daylight finds you
If you keep believing

All the things that you can change
There's a meaning in everything
And you will find all you need
There's so much to understand

During the last year, my whole life actually, the Lord has been lifting my vision.  He has shown me how much I can do when I rely on Him.  He has shown me the darkness and reminded me of the sources of light He has given me through His Son, Jesus Christ.  He has shown me through incredible amounts of tender mercies that He is involved in my life.  He has reminded me over and over again to stop worrying, take a deep breath and remember that it is His plan, not mine that brings perfect happiness.  He has spoken to my heart and my mind through song, scriptures, other people and feelings to trust Him, because it truly will be all right.  The Savior taught, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Yes, sometimes life is hard and unexpected things happen which cause us to walk in the dark, but isn't there so much comfort in knowing that there is a much bigger plan and that what appears to us to be devastating and destructive is actually full of blessings and growth and light?
And while those hard things in life aren't on my imaginary "top things to do in life to bring fun and excitement list." they are on my actual "blessings from my Heavenly Father' list because they are teaching me how to be like Christ.  The tears of sadness and worry I cry aren't nearly as numerous as the drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, the burdens I carry aren't nearly as heavy as His cross, and the pain I experience is no where close to the agony of Crucifixion.  I will never fully know the agony and misery of those events, but one day, and a little bit more everyday, I come to know more perfectly the hope that comes from a Savior who rose from the tomb.   I'm not perfect, but I am trying to be like Jesus, and that is bringing the sweetest blessings and so much hope and light into my life.

I love y'all(:

Here is a link to a wonderful talk about hope and light and trials and all that good stuff(:
Also, since I am a missionary, I can't link to the song...but I am sure if you google it you could find it.  Google is good like that(:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Master, the Tempest is Raging-A story about a Snickers bar(:

Hi!  Welcome back to my crazy ramblings with song titles(:
I hope by the end of this, that the title makes sense, to someone other than me.

Master, the tempest is raging! 
The billows are tossing high!
Master, with anguish of spirit I bow in my grief today.
The depths of my sad heart are troubled.

There was a day this week where I felt like those words describe, like the waves where high and I was being tossed every which way.  I was tired and emotional and ready to be done with the current storms.  As we went grocery shopping, I saw that the Snickers bars were on sale.  
I really love Snickers bars. 
I got the snickers and thoroughly enjoyed it.  However, once it was gone, the promise on the back was still unfulfilled. 
My heart still carried the heavy burdens of all that was going on, and I was far from "satisfied."
 I felt a little silly as I got on my knees and told my Heavenly Father of my disappointment in this, I told Him of my concerns, of my fears, my worries and my hopes.  The words that came into my mind were these, 
Peace, be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies." 
A sweet reassurance that all things will be okay, and not just okay, but wonderful.  I felt the Lord telling me, and probably laughing a little, that He offers so much more than a Snickers bar to satisfy me.  As I watched throughout the day and the week, these are some of the things that have "satisfied"

A package from someone who knows me too well to know that I would need kit-kats, markers and glue sticks, but more than that, brought a whirlwind of happy mission memories to mind.  
I found it in the words of my scriptures, which truly are my friends. 

I found it as I served the people I love here. 

I found it as I created things to bring comfort to others from the words of scriptures and prophets.

I found it as I asked for a Priesthood blessing.
I found it as I talked to someone I have truly come to love.
I found it as I sang hymns.
I found it when I prayed and listened.
I found it through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes repentance and forgiveness possible, but also make peace and happiness possible. 

   Master, the terror is over.
The elements sweetly rest.
Earth's sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven's within my breast.
Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more,
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor
And rest on the blissful shore.

I learned a few things this week.
Never seek things of the "world" to calm a troubled soul
Prayer is never the wrong choice
All things are made right through the Atonement.  All things.
Peace and joy are found in the journey, not at the end. Or in a Snickers bar(:  

I heard this talk again this week and loved it!
And, as always, here is the link to the song!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Themes and Thoughts (I'll never be the same)

It is crazy that in a few hours it will be 2015.  2014 will be over.  I am not entirely sure how I feel about that.  I can say this though:

I'll never be the same.

I know, cheesy, but really.  2014 brought some of the hardest moments I have ever experienced.  
In January, when I sat in Relief Society with my mom, we sang, "I believe in Christ" This part stood out to me: 
I hadn't picked my 2014 theme yet. 
Side note:  I started choosing a yearly theme in 2013.  2013's theme was "Come what may and love it" which proved also to be extremely fitting.  
Back to Relief Society.  I hadn't picked a new theme yet and I was hesitant to let go of the one I had come to love from the year before.  This line, however, brought tears to my eyes.  I was preparing to leave my family and it was becoming more and more real. The idea that since I believe in Christ, I can handle whatever comes seemed perfect.  And, it fit hand in hand with my previous theme.  2013 I learned to be happy.  2014 I was choosing to exercise faith.  
By the time I left on January 29th, I thought that the trials of the past year, of health struggles especially, were over.  I thought that I would be relying on the Savior to help me get through slammed doors and companion struggles and that was pretty much it.  I was so wrong.  As the days progressed, I realized that this theme was going to help me through more, sure it helped through slammed doors, but it helped through homesickness, through scary days at Duke, through having my heartbroken over someone I just met not being able to be baptized, through biking through cold and rain and up hills, through intense conversations and lessons, through more scary days at Duke, through ending my mission early, through being home and then through returning, through transfers and more doctors visits.  

But hey, I made it.  Because I believe in Christ, so come what may.

Please don't read all of those "throughs" as depressing.  My year was incredible.  Honestly and truly.
I relied on my Savior and I grew.  I grew and changed and I honestly couldn't be happier.  I met incredible people, I relied on their strength, I made memories and more memories.  I developed a relationship with the Holy Ghost.  I felt my Heavenly Fathers love.  I learned the importance of covenants, especially Baptism and taking the Sacrament.  I felt the power of the Priesthood.  I learned to pray, really pray.  I witnessed miracle after miracle, just like the ones I read about in the scriptures.  My testimony of the restored gospel was strengthened and deepened to a new level.  I have learned about the enabling power of the Atonement, as well as the redemptive power.  I have found peace during conflict and faith during times of fear.  I have seen God's hand in my life, over and over.  My belief that there is a bigger plan for us has been proven time and time again (as well as my belief that God has a sense of humor).  I have learned new uses for paper airplanes, pepper and dish soap and plastic cups.  I have laughed and laughed.  I have felt the Spirit work through me, and honestly, that is one of the best feelings in the world.  I get to be a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and a representative of Jesus Christ.  I have learned and grown and smiled and cried until I was completely exhausted, and then I found strength in my Savior and kept going.  I am truly grateful for 2104.  
I am also really excited for 2015.  Seeing how fitting the last two years themes have been, this one makes me really happy.  I have prayed and pondered and then chalked it:
My hopes for 2015 include more joy in the service of my Savior, not just as a missionary, but in developing a life long habit of finding joy in His service.  I have 9 more months with His name on my chest and I want to make the very most of them, and then continue to make the most of my life. Because I don't just owe Him 18 months, as I learned this year, I owe Him everything.

This video is to the song, "I'll never be the same" and the words couldn't be more perfect.  I cried making this video, because my heart is so full with love for the people in it.  Thank you, and if you're not in the video, thank you also, because sometimes the things that mean the most aren't captured by my camera(: