Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Coming Home

Hey Y'all!

It feels a lot different typing this blog post myself instead of writing it in an email. I returned from my mission! I still feel quite out of place, but I am happy to be home and take on life's new adventures.

And now I will happily report the final few days of my mission. :)

Monday I spent the day packing and then we had dinner with David, Bethany, and some members. We had a lesson on the Plan of Salvation and then went for ice cream with David and Bethany. Saying goodbye to them was rough. I love them so much, and I hope to see them again.

Tuesday was my final day of proselyting. It's hard to describe how it felt. A myriad of emotional extremes flooded my brain all day. I had never felt such opposing emotions pull at me so hard. I felt excited and terrified and devastated and elated all at the same time. Goodbyes are difficult, and I said them all day. Tuesday was my last time volunteering at the Storehouse, and then we went to lunch with some members. We spent the rest of the day dropping in on members, investigators, and less-actives and saying our goodbyes. Sister Gotchy stayed in the area but Sister Leifson got transferred. So we both were having a bit of a rough time on Monday and Tuesday. However, Tuesday was a good finale to my life of proselyting. I received news that an investigator from my first area was baptized and she and her husband, who was once less-active, are both active in church! Hooray! The Church is true and people can change! Never give up or lose hope!

Wednesday was the transfer meeting. As is tradition, all the departing missionaries sat up on the stand and bore their departing testimonies. We had 27 or so departing missionaries; this was one of the largest transfer meetings in the mission. Every testimony was incredibly powerful and the spirit was undeniable. I was the only one who broke down during my testimony, but at this point I've gotten used to it. Even though one of the departing elders poked fun at me for it in his departing testimony. No shame. :) I was deeply touched as I listened to the departing testimonies of all these missionaries that I have come to know and love so well. They have all grown so much, and I am so proud of them.
After the departing testimonies President Griffin announced the transfer information for the upcoming transfer. I was so impressed with the new companionships. President Griffin didn't have the chance to get to know many of these missionaries very well, yet he paired them together so perfectly. It strengthened my testimony that he does work by revelation, and that the Tennessee Knoxville Mission is in the best of hands. No man leads this Church. Jesus Christ leads and guides this Church through His chosen servants.

After the meeting the assistants dropped 19 of us off at the mission home, where we all slowly went crazy. Sister Griffin fed us a delicious lunch and dinner, which was much appreciated. After having had an hourly schedule every day for the last 18 months, all of us felt weird sitting around for several hours without working. We all started begging for assignments; it was hilarious. We helped with dinner, weighed our suitcases, sang hymns around the piano, and had our exit interviews. We were all stir-crazy, but we all had fun together.

Thursday we got up at 5:30 and headed to the airport. Then I spent 5 hours on a plane. We all landed in the Salt Lake airport Thursday afternoon, said our goodbyes to each other, and met up with our families. The feeling was incredibly surreal. I felt like I was in a bit of a daze the entire time. I was extremely happy though. :) Shortly after that I was released from my calling as a full-time missionary.

Since then I have had my share of adventures being home. I've been reunited with friends and loved ones, I've been enjoying my hobbies again, and I've been attending the temple. I've had a bit of a hard time adjusting, but I'm happy to be home. There are so many opportunities to lift and serve here. I just need to find them. :)

What was most surprising about signing on to this blog again was discovering that one of my blog posts became a topic of controversy on an anti-Mormon website. Curiosity got the best of me and I read several demeaning comments that left me feeling a bit flustered. But, if any of those authors are still following this blog, I want to simply say that I am not angry, and I do apologize for expressing frustrations about certain individuals who challenged my beliefs because they were "illogical." The root of that frustration was their desire to tear down beliefs that I dearly loved without giving me the opportunity to share my conviction. I respect all people of all beliefs, regardless if I believe the same way. I do firmly stand behind my testimony that the honest and humble seeker of truth should primarily lean on faith. Faith is so much more than mere emotion. The source of all truth is our Father in Heaven. To obtain truth, we as individuals must discover how the Spirit communicates with us and listen to His guidance as we seek our Father in Heaven for answers. I believe that logic and science have their place. But when it comes to spirituality, knowledge is primarily obtained through humility and faith -- qualities that our Father in Heaven wants us to cultivate. As stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:10-14,

"But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

I spent 18 months out in the field because I knew this Gospel was true. I knew it would bless the lives of those who would choose to accept it. It was always disheartening when people would toss it aside because I knew how much happier it would make them. I know it's true. I only plead with everyone to read the Book of Mormon with an open and honest heart and seek God for answers. You won't regret it.

Those 18 months were the best in my life. I miss the mission field so much already. I know this Church is true, that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and that the fulness of His Gospel has been restored to the earth today. It has blessed my life tremendously. I know it's true, and I'm excited to share that with as many people as I can!

Thank you all for following my blog! I have another blog in the works entitled, "Anchors of the Soul." Feel free to follow! Anchorsofthesoul.blogspot.com

Monday, July 28, 2014

Everlasting Beginnings

Hello Family, Friends, and Fantastic people!

So I signed on my email 20 minutes ago and this is what I find:

"Last one!"
"Last letter!"
"The last of the emails"
"Last letter"
"Tato Po"

Silly Nate.

Well this is kind of surreal. I just read everyone's last emails to me on my last p-day after my last full week as a missionary and I feel like the word "last" is following me everywhere like a lost puppy. My emotions are so erratic right now I don't really have the words to describe what's going on in my brain. Plus I got about 3 hours of sleep last night so who knows how this email is going to turn out?

Story about that in a minute.

This has been a good week for the five of us in our little condo. It is so fun sharing a place with other missionaries, and I'm really happy that one of those missionaries is Sister Day. Because she understands *exactly* how I feel at just about any given moment and it is incredibly validating talking with her about what is going on in my brain. Plus our companions are awesome! We've been having little parties every night (that stop at 10:30 of course). My favorite was the one we had last week when we were all playing in the kitchen and I said, "We could have so much fun with a can of whipped cream right now." Guess what? We had one!! And none of them have seen the whipped cream trick (launching whipped cream in the air from the back of your hand and catching it in your mouth)! So guess what we did for the next 30 minutes? It was delightful.

Last night we were all doing a puzzle of the golden gate bridge while belting the lyrics to "Through Heaven's Eyes" and "Miracles" from Prince of Egypt. Sister Leifson was downstairs talking with the District Leader and sneakily held the phone up the stairwell so they could hear our crazy singing. I regret nothing.

Well, I don't really know what to say in this email. There seemed to be a theme in a few of the emails I received today; writing the last email is accompanied by the desire to share something incredibly profound, yet my mind is blank. So we'll just see what comes out. How can one possibly sum up 18 months of life-changing experiences is one simple email?

We'll start with Monday, as is tradition. I don't actually remember what happened. #Nosleep. I think I took a nap. Monday evening we had dinner with David and Bethany, and it was delicious! We also started the New Member Lessons and the first one went really well. I'm going to miss those two so much. I've gotten closer to them than to anyone else in the area. Bethany actually majored in psychology and gave me some of her books on relationships! Score! That was so nice of her! It made me excited to jump back into my major. Adventure awaits in Family Life department at BYU!

Tuesday was my last appointment with Karen. It was a neat experience because Sister Griffin, the new mission president's wife, came with us! It was her first time teaming up with missionaries and she did a wonderful job. We taught Karen the Plan of Salvation. She was very sweet and open, but she told us that she wanted to remain Catholic. We told her that we would love her no matter what choice she made. Our purpose is simply to share the knowledge that we have and invite people to experiment on it to find out if it is true. She said she would pray about it and she invited us back. On Wednesday. Which is the day I'm going to spend in the mission home. #cliffhangers.

Tuesday we also saw Michelle, who dropped us. She is pretty busy and she is not quite ready to experiment on the word just yet. But she will be. She is an incredibly kind and loving individual and one day she'll be ready.

Tuesday evening we saw our neighbors, who graciously invited us in. They are so kind and hospitable! They gave us cookies and let us tell them about Joseph Smith and the restoration of the Gospel. One of them is a Buddhist and the other is Agnostic, but they said they wanted to learn more and they invited us back! We won't have time to see them until probably Wednesday or Thursday. #cliffhangers.

Wednesday we saw Joy and Misty, another pair of investigators we have been teaching for a while. They have been investigating the church for a little over a year, and right now they are working on gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon. We had a really good conversation with Joy about our purpose as missionaries and the blessings that lie in store for those who obtain this knowledge that we have to offer. They're still searching but they'll get there. We probably won't have time to see them until after Wednesday. #cliffhangers.

The same day we also went to see a less-active family and we taught them the Plan of Salvation. It was so fun! They have two adorable little kids; one is around 2 and the other is about 4. The 2 year old girl sat quietly and nodded the entire time we were teaching. The only time she shook her head and said "no" was when we asked her if it was important to be nice to her brother. Kids. They're the cutest! Their parents want to attend the temple; their life is just crazy right now and it's hard to put spirituality first. One of the many lessons I have learned on my mission is the importance of making your personal spirituality your top priority. When we put God first, all things fall into place.

Wednesday afternoon we saw John, who is preparing to serve a mission. We went over chapter 1 of Preach My Gospel and it made me all sentimental and stuff. It is one of my favorite chapters; it is all about the purpose we have as missionaries and where our power and authority comes from. I'm going to miss it.

Wednesday evening we had our last correlation with the Ward Mission Leader, who also took us out to Pei Wei for dinner. Meetings like that are hard to attend when you know you're going to be across the country in the next seven days. But! It was a good meeting nonetheless. Pellissippi is in good hands. The best of the best. :)

Thursday we contacted our golden referral from the Nashville mission. We received a personal phone call from the Nashville mission president requesting that we contact this referral ASAP. He was taking lessons from the elders over in that mission, but he is moving to Pellissippi for the summer. We were all way excited about that! His name is Will, he's about my age, and he's awesome. We taught him the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he was asking a ton of questions about baptism. He had a ton of profound insights too! We taught him about the Sacrament, and before we described what it was, he said, "So we can renew the promises we make with the Lord at baptism, right?" Whoa. Not too many investigators know that before we teach them. He's ready! He wants to be baptized!

And he's a YSA so we had to hand him over to the assistants because they are over the YSA ward in the Knoxville stake.

Upon leaving his house I turned to my companions and said, "I feel like a little girl who just found a lost puppy and is beginning her mom to keep him."

But the important thing is that he wants to be baptized.

And I guess I wouldn't have been able to teach him much . . . 'cuz . . . you know.

Thursday evening we went to see Kirk, a member in our ward who hasn't been to church in a while. He is a very kind man, and he's incredibly brilliant. He's rewiring his entire house so he can control the garage, the lights, and all his cameras from his cell phone. We had a really good discussion on the power of the Atonement in our lives and he opened up a lot. He wants to come back to church, but he wants his wife to be involved too. Hopefully we'll be able to start working with both of them! He wants us over for dinner sometime this next week. #cliffhangers.

Friday was my last district meeting, and Elder Crestani asked me to share my favorite miracle story from my mission. My mission has been 18 months of miracles, so it was kind of hard to choose. I ended up telling the story of my very first transfer, which to me was the transfer of miracles. I saw the most success in my first transfer. I told the story of Marlene and Larry and how they changed their lives around to accept the Gospel. I love and miss that family so much.

After District Meeting we saw Anne, who loves missionaries almost as much as she loves Harry Potter. She has an entire room devoted to her Harry Potter merchandise and I felt like I was looking into Paige's bedroom. Just fewer movie posters. ;) Anne is Presbyterian but she is open to learning about our faith. We scheduled an appointment for next Friday. #cliffhangers.

Friday evening we had all our plans fall through and we still had about an hour left. When everything falls through, that means there is a lost sheep out there that Heavenly Father wants you to go after. After some prayer and meditation we received a text from a less-active member who we hadn't been able to see in 5.5 weeks. She invited us over! Out of the blue! It was awesome. We had a really good lesson with her about how nothing can separate us from the love of God. Feelings of unworthiness should only lead us to seek Him, not to increase the distance or to put up a wall between us and Him. That really clicked with her; we're praying that she will decide to come back to Church. She feels out of place because everyone at church seems like they are on top of life. I told her that everyone is sheltering some kind of burden or pain, no matter what we see on the outside. No one is exempt from the temptations, trials, and challenges that life throws at us. That is why we go to Church. We go to seek refuge from the world and to strengthen our spirituality in order to face the challenges that life throws at us. The sacrament rejuvenates our Spirits and gives us the boost we need to stay strong throughout the week. Everybody needs it, and it is meant for everyone. Hopefully she comes next week! #cliffhangers.

Saturday we manned a booth for the Church at the Karns Fair. We handed out free pictures of Christ along with a 4-question survey asking people whether or not they would be interested in our message. Out of 25 surveys filled out, none of them were in our area. Sad day. But it was still fun meeting people and sharing a little bit about what we believe. I was kind of surprised at how much I've grown in the past 18 months. Had I attended a fair at the beginning of my mission I probably would have cowered under the table instead of approaching people. It's cool to see how much you change!

Saturday evening we taught the Plan of Salvation to Amber, another one of our investigators. She has been coming to church regularly and really enjoyed it. She is still searching to make sure she knows it's true before acting on it, but I'm sure she'll get there. I'm kind of sick of typing "#cliffhangers" so I'm probably going to hold off for the rest of the email.

Saturday afternoon we spent about two and a half hours helping a member move out of her house. I felt so bad for this poor woman. She and her ex-husband tend to hoard things, so her house was packed with all sorts of stuff. It was a ton of work and the environment wasn't the cleanest I've seen, but it felt so good to make a dent and, most importantly, to help this woman out. It is sometimes difficult to have a positive attitude when doing some of the dirty work, but into my mind came the question, "What would my attitude be like if I were doing this for the Savior?" That made the project immensely more satisfying. As the Savior says in Matthew, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have also done it unto me." I collapsed into bed that evening but it was the most satisfying feeling.

Sunday we said goodbye to a lot of wonderful people and got a new investigator! We also had a family of members sign up to feed us the last hour of the evening. That was so kind of them! Sister Rainey came to pick us up for dinner, and as we were driving to her house I looked at the sky and thought, "Man. It looks like we're going to have a tornado."

GUESS WHAT? We got a text 20 minutes later containing a tornado warning.

Do you know what this means??? I'm a real Tennesseean because I can look at the sky and predict tornadoes!!!!! I'm really excited about this!!

Except then we got a text from the Zone Leaders that we needed to get home ASAP and we had just arrived at our dinner appointment. So we stayed the full hour and then Sister Rainey drove us home. The power was out, the wind was blowing, and it was hailing, but luckily no damage was done. No tornadoes touched down in the area or anything. We were kept up all night by the thunder. It was the loudest thunder I have ever heard. I'm going to miss that! Utah doesn't have real thunderstorms. Like ever. Except now I'm tired because I didn't sleep last night because there was a strobe light of lightning coming nonstop through the window for several hours. It looked cool though!!

And that was my week. And I'm super tired. I am SO tired. I have reached a new DEFINITION of tired. I am at least 18.5 kinds of tired. At least. And it's the best kind of exhaustion I have ever experienced.

I have one more day of proselyting after today, and then I spend all day after the transfer meeting in the Mission Home. I'm not sure what I'll be doing there, but I guess I can tell the story on my next blog post, which will be all about coming home and stuff. We fly out Thursday morning and then what happens after that is a whole new kind of adventure that I am extremely terrified of and profoundly excited for.

I wanted to wrap this up with a quote from President Uchtdorf, which I'm pretty sure I've included before but I want to include it again:

"In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.

Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless13 and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.

The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.

How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings."

This rings true to me. Almost everything inside of me has tried to resist this ending. *Almost* everything. My mission has meant more to me than any other experience I have had in my life. I have learned so much about my Savior Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. I have learned how to access the healing and enabling powers of the atonement. I know what it means to repent, I know what repentance feels like, and I have tasted the joy of receiving divine forgiveness. I know what Jesus Christ expects of me, the blessings that lie in store for the faithful, and the blessings that await those who live the Gospel. My testimony has grown substantially, my character has grown more divine in nature through the grace of Jesus Christ. My love for others, for the Gospel, and for God has grown substantially. I have learned how to succeed and how to fall, how to lift and how to be lifted, how to teach and how to learn. No words in any language can summarize the experience, the learning, the growth, and the change that I have experienced in the last 18 months. All I can say is that I am profoundly grateful. For each and every moment, both hard and easy. I am grateful that each experience in my mission has been tailored in such a way that would allow me to experience the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I love this Gospel. I love my Savior. I love that He has allowed me to serve Him with all my heart, might, mind, and strength for the last 18 months. I will never regret this decision, nor forget this experience. I will always cherish this testimony and the people with whom I have been able to share it. I thank everyone back at home for their love and support this entire time. Never have I ever felt so encircled with love, both from heavenly and earthly angels. I hope and pray that I can touch more hearts as my journey comes to an end. My next journey awaits, and I can't wait to see what lies in store. As long as my future is in God's hands, I know that it is safe. Everlasting happiness awaits those who put their trust in the Lord.

God bless you all!

All my love,

Sister Bri Fox

Monday, July 21, 2014

Miracle of Change

Hello Family, Friends, and Blog Readers!!

So I just realized I took my own sweet time responding to everybody's emails and now my time has been shortened. Whoops. So I'm either going to have to type really fast or this email is going to be particularly short.

This is my second to last email! How depressing is that? I'm going to miss these. They give me a wonderful opportunity to look back on the lessons that I learned throughout the week and share them with the people I love, hopefully for their learning and benefit. But! I do intend to keep these going. My life back at home probably will not be as exciting as my missionary life, but there are still so many lessons to learn and to be shared. So I fully intend to start a new blog with weekly adventures and insights. I haven't thought of a title yet, but it will be announced in the near future.

This week was much better than last week, and I feel much more chipper! Which is good. So! Let's get started, shall we?

Monday: Monday was p-day! As it is every week. Unless you're in Chattanooga and people keep scheduling zone conferences on your p-day. But I'm not in Chattanooga so that's no longer a problem. We went bowling! And by "we" I mean everyone in the District plus the West Hills Sisters! I sat in the back with Sister Day and Sister Roundy and talked about life and how enjoyable it is. Many people asked me why I wasn't participating in the bowling festivities. My response? Why on earth would I want to pay money to chuck a ball at some pins and miss? I was there for the social aspect. And to cheer on my companions. Except every time they got a strike I actually wasn't looking. Whoops.

Monday evening we had dinner with the Moss family, and they are such a sweet couple. They also had David and Bethany over, and together we had Family Home Evening. We are just getting started with the new member lessons. It was a very enjoyable evening! It's so nice being surrounded by several of my favorite people. :)

Tuesday I don't remember what we did, but I'm sure it was important. We did volunteer at the Storehouse again, which is something I look forward to every week. We also got to see Karen, who is an investigator that sisters started working with last year. She really began to open up to us about her concerns and we had a wonderful lesson on the Plan of Salvation. We're seeing her again this week! And Sister Griffin is joining us! I've never proselyted with the mission mom, so that should be a lot of fun! Just another perk of being ridiculously close to the mission home. :)

Wednesday we saw one of our less-actives who struggles with depression. The weather this past week has been *beautiful.* It was 80 degrees and sunny, so we did the lesson on the lawn, which was glorious. We had a great lesson about the enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ, and how the Savior can help us through the challenges of everyday life. He can give us the strength and the motivation to do important things when we cannot find the desire or motivation within ourselves. I've felt it over and over on my mission. Some days you just don't feel like working, and the energy and motivation to work is gone. Yet, when you rely on the Savior and pray for strength, He gives you exactly what you need to get the work done and to bless the lives of others.

Wednesday evening we saw Joy and Gary again, another pair of investigators who have been looking into the church for a while. We went over with our ward mission leader and talked about David A. Bednar's "Patterns of Light" found on mormonmessages.org. Those videos bring a lot of clarity to how the spirit works and how revelation is typically received. We talked about the importance of looking to God as the source for truth and praying with an open heart and open mind. They're still seeking for answers but I'm confident they will find those answers in time.

Thursday we had a really good lesson with our investigator named Travis and his son Gabe. They have been looking into the church for quite some time, but the hustle and bustle of life tends to get in the way. We talked about living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how it needs to be a pattern for how we live our lives. There is a difference between going through the motions and changing as a result of the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about becoming like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We need not just be baptized and stop our progression there, but we must work each day of our lives to change our characters into something more beautiful and Christlike. This is only made possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The Gospel that Jesus Christ set forth -- faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end -- is the path we take to access the changing/healing powers of Christ's atoning sacrifice. That is the beautiful miracle of this Gospel. Change is possible. Our characters are never stagnant or "stuck." We never have to say, "I can never change" or "it's just the way I am." Change is always possible; that is the purpose of life and the purpose of the Gospel. And it doesn't need to occur all at once either. The Lord accepts our every effort to come unto Him, even if we start small. Just like a perfect parent rejoices with every small step that a new child takes, our perfect Father in Heaven rejoices over the baby steps we take toward Him. I love His infinite patience and love!

Friday was my final exchange of the mission, and it was fantastic! It was fun being on the other end. Sister Whatcott joined Sister Leifson and me in Pellissippi, and though we didn't get to see many people, we learned a lot from one another. Exchanges do wonders for my energy and enthusiasm levels. It's fun to learn from new styles and hear the insights of sisters that you love and admire. We also had a wonderful district meeting about charity and love. When you lose yourself, you find yourself.

Saturday we met a less-active who reminds me a lot of a less-active in my last area. He grew up in the church, but over time he left. Faith is a hard concept for him to grasp. He thirsts for certainty and looks only for physical evidence of God's existence. It is hard to share with these people that faith *is* certainty. Faith leads to greater certainty than miracles or signs. Logic comes from your own intelligence, which is imperfect. Faith is communion with God, who is the source of all truth. Faith roots us deeper than physical evidence ever could. But, you cannot force anyone to have faith, it must be developed, so we simply bore our testimonies and encouraged him to try the experiment outlined in Alma 32. Blessings and understanding await those who seek the Lord on His terms.

Saturday evening we met with a family of members who have been going through a rough time lately. The father has been having a lot of health issues and he recently moved to a nursing home. His wife is going in for knee surgery this week, and their daughter is the only one left to take care of them both. We had a really inspiring conversation with her, though. She told us that her favorite Gospel principle was hope. So, naturally, we instantly connected. She had written her entire masters thesis on hope. We talked about all the discoveries on hope that we have made and it was one of the best lessons of the transfer. I just. Love that topic. So much!

Sunday we had an incredible Sacrament Meeting. We had a member of the high council address us, and it was the same member who had given the "no coincidences" address over in West Hills a year ago. He is *fantastic* speaker. He likes to pick a phrase to weave throughout his talk. Last year it was, "What a coincidence!" This time it was, "Things don't change, people do." He talked about the miracle of change and how it is made possible through the atonement. He gave the example of the US Hockey team in the 1980 Olympics when they played against the Soviets, who had an impressive winning streak for the past several winter Olympics. The US coach tried to implement on changes in the team's strategy. They went back to their original plays because those plays were comfortable and familiar. Before the Olympics they lost to the Soviets 10-3. After deciding to trust their coach, they implemented the changes in their strategy and beat the Soviets in the finals. This game became known as the "miracle on ice." I think there's a movie about it.

Here are some thoughts that he gave after telling the story: They would not have reached their goal if they refused to change. The same is with us. We cannot reach our goals if we do not align our strategy with God's. All things are possible to them that believe. Christ has the power to transform and change people, no matter their disposition. Sometimes the Lord gives us the strength to change instead of changing our situation. During those times when we wish He would remove the trial, He is helping us learn how to become the person that we need to be. He has not abandoned us and He never will. God knows what is necessary, but He always shows compassion. Our problems do not just disappear, but in the midst of such times, God sends angels to strengthen us as He did for our Savior Jesus Christ as He suffered for our sins in the garden of Gethsemane. We are angels to support each other. It is not the suffering that leads to change; lasting change comes through acceptance and reliance on the Atonement of our Savior. To return to live with our Heavenly Father we must not only be cleansed, but changed. The Atonement is not just about paying a debt, it's about transforming debtors like us. It's a miracle.

Well family and friends, that is all I have time for this week. I love you all so much. Thank you all so much for supporting me throughout my entire mission. Thank you for the letters, the emails, the prayers, the words of encouragement and love, and for all the effort you have put into supporting me. It means the world to me. I cannot thank y'all enough. My mission has been such an incredible journey and I am so sad to see it end. But I am excited to be reunited with all my loved ones, who have given me everything so that I could give my everything to God. I love all of you!! Have a week full of miracles and I will send my final email next Monday. God bless!

-Sister Fox

Monday, July 14, 2014

Prayer for Humility

Hey Y'all!!

This email is probably going to be a bit shorter. Either because people back home are praying for me to feel excited about coming home, or that I prayed for humility this week. I can't really decide which. #slowestweekever.

But! This week was a very memorable one in my own character development so I will always be grateful for it, all the same. :)

Many of you may be asking, "Why on earth did she pray for humility?" Well. If it makes y'all feel better I had to devote an entire hour in personal study to talk myself into it.

I have been reflecting back on my mission and have realized that the most meaningful experiences I have had on my mission have been a result of my efforts to weave Christlike attributes into my character. I have found as I have prayed for them that I'm not really choosing which ones I need to work on, they choose me instead. For the past while I have felt a strong need that I should start focusing on humility, but then I got all scared because praying for humility, from what I hear, doesn't end well. However, Alma 32 tells us that it is better to humble yourself rather than being compelled to be humble, and sooner or later you'll have to make the choice between the two. So I prayed for it.

But I'll include most of my notes about humility at the end of this email.

Monday everyone in the district wanted to go to the driving range to play golf. Golf? Nope. Sister Day and I stayed home and took a well-deserved nap. When people ask me why I respond that putting a golf club in Sister Fox's hands is never a good idea.

Monday evening we had a great lesson with John, who is a recent convert to the church. He gets so excited about the Gospel and he is preparing for a mission! He has made so much progress since he first joined and it is fun to see how enthusiastic he gets about the Church. Monday evening he actually taught us a lesson out of Alma. He focused on chapters 17-19 and talked about how awesome and faithful Ammon is. That lesson was tons of fun! He is going to make a fantastic missionary! He already wants to do all he can to serve in the church and he wants to share the Gospel with everyone. He's the best!

Tuesday we probably did something important. All I can remember is volunteering at the Bishop's Storehouse and then having all our plans fall through. Ah well. It builds character. :)

Wednesday we probably did something important. All I can remember is that all our plans fell through. Ah well. It builds character. :)

Thursday we probably did something important. All I can remember is going to an awesome district meeting about asking inspired questions. Then all our plans fell through. Ah well. It builds character. :) At least the district meeting was awesome.

After the district meeting we all took personality tests. Why? I don't really know. I don't know who instigated it. All I remember is walking into the kitchen and everyone in the district is pouring over this personality test. I learned that I am still very much an ISFJ. I have changed a lot on my mission, but I still remain a strong ISFJ. I was reading about this personality type in the results and my life started making a lot more sense and I had several epiphanies about myself and the way I approach missionary work. It was very enlightening.

Friday we met a part-member family visiting from North Carolina. The father is an active member of the church, and he has three boys ages 13, 15, and 16 who all want to be baptized. The sad part of the story is that their mom is completely against the church and refuses to let them join. :( We taught them about Mosiah 24 and how the Lord sometimes won't take away all our burdens at once, or provide immediate solutions to all our problems. This is how he tries our faith. However, He will make our burdens bearable if we drop them at His feet and take His yolk upon us. In time, He will help us get past our roadblocks in life. All we need to do is trust that His ways are higher than ours. That is the first step to humility. :)

Friday afternoon we went to see Karen, who has been investigating the church for quite some time. I think she initially started investigating when Sister Cady was serving in this area. Karen is an incredibly talented individual; she's 91 and an incredible artist. She held an art show at the retirement home she lives in and we had the opportunity to admire her work. We also got to meet with her briefly, and we talked about what Jesus Christ meant when He told us to take His yolk upon us. Our burdens are too heavy to carry alone, but with the help of Jesus Christ, we can pull any weight that is placed upon our shoulders. We just need to rely on Him for spiritual strength and guidance. Another step to humility. :)

Saturday the Bishop's Storehouse held an open house to the public, and we had several investigators planning on coming, so we were able to attend. It was awesome! There were a lot of people there who were not members of the church and we were able to share a little bit about emergency preparedness along with our basic beliefs. I also got to meet the mayor of Knox County! Our public relations specialist, Edie, pretty much knows everyone in Knox County. She's known as "The Queen of Knoxville." She's out of town but she still managed to get the mayor to come, so that was cool! And it turns out that the mayor is really good friends with David!! David came too. Poor Bethany was at home with a migraine. :( The welfare missionaries gave the mayor a starter kit to a home food storage, and they gave David one too! I don't remember if I've mentioned that David is on talk-show radio. He announced the open house on the radio and has been doing a lot to share the Gospel with people in the community. The mayor said that he trusts only a few people on the radio, and David is one of them. That whole exchange was really cool to witness. I can just tell that both David and Bethany are going to have a strong, positive influence on a whole lot of people in this area.

Another highlight from the Bishop's Storehouse was seeing Erica!! She and her husband walked right in and I was super excited. It had been over a year, so I extended my hand and said, "Hi! You probably don't remember me, but . . " She cut me off, "Of course I remember you!!!!" That made me particularly happy! Validated. I also saw a ton of other members from past areas and they all remembered who I was! Sister Fox has not been forgotten. :) That's always a good reminder. That reminder actually came a lot this week, with answered prayers and very timely letters. And cupcakes. Courtesy of David and Bethany. :) Thank you both!

So, after praying for humility, opportunities to humble myself came very subtly and I almost missed the entire point. All of a sudden, weaknesses started emerging. I found myself getting stuck in old patterns that I thought I had cast aside. New flaws started emerging. I started feeling incredibly inadequate with my calling, and with being a person in general. Feelings of confidence started giving in to feelings of guilt and shame. It really wasn't a pleasant experience and I didn't even know why it was happening.

But then I came across a verse in Ether that I have read probably 86,000 times in my life, and it took on a whole new meaning. Ether 12:27 tells us that if we come unto Christ He will show unto us our weaknesses. If we were to jump in a mud puddle and then wander around in darkness, we would have no idea how unclean we really are until we start walking toward a source of light. The closer we get to the light, the more dark spots we see in our own character. As we come unto Christ, we may find that weaknesses start emerging and that our flaws are put under a magnifying glass. It's all terribly frustrating. At this point we make a choice: let feelings of guilt and shame lead us to despair, which is the plan of the adversary, or let feelings of guilt and shame lead us to humility and reliance on the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.

The verse continues, "I give unto men weaknesses that they may be humble." The purpose of having flaws is to help us remember that we are nothing without the strength of our Savior. All of our gifts and talents come from Him. When left to our own strength, we can do very little. In the strength of the Lord we can do all things. My favorite part is the promise, "If men humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." The Lord promises us that if we are humble, and if we exercise faith in our Savior, that He will help turn our weaknesses into strengths. Having weaknesses gives us the opportunity to grow stronger through reliance on the Atonement. My favorite verse of all time is in 2 Corinthians 12, when Paul glories in weakness after realizing that weaknesses help us rely on the grace of our Savior.

At first I took humility a little too far as I focused too much on my weaknesses. I learned that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but less about yourself. It's honestly acknowledging your weaknesses and then leaning on the Savior to give you the strength to exercise your gifts and bless the lives of others.

The greatest tender mercy was Sunday. After feeling particularly awful Saturday night, I plead with the Lord for spiritual strength and guidance. For some reason I felt a strong impression that I needed to bear my testimony. I knew I would feel so much more confident and more spiritually rejuvenated if I could just bear my testimony. I had no idea how that was going to happen because testimony meeting happened last week and I'm pretty sure I ignored that prompting to bear my testimony last week. The next day, right before sacrament meeting started, the first counselor in the bishopric came up to our companionship and says, "Ok, which of you three wants to bear your testimony at the start of the meeting?"

Whoa.

I was more terrified than ever before for some reason, but I got up and bore my testimony and it was the best feeling ever.. I talked about how frustrating it was to have weaknesses put under a magnifying glass, but how it gives us opportunity to lean on the Savior and acknowledge that we can do anything with His help. I prayed fervently beforehand that it would touch somebody, and after the meeting I got a lot of positive comments on it. It was a gentle reminder to me that God is aware of me, and that, though I feel weak, I can still be a strong instrument in His hands to bless the lives of others.

The irony of humility is that humility is confidence. It's confidence that in the strength of the Lord you can do all things. To pray for humility is to submit your will to God's will. It's to pray with a spirit of gratitude. It's petitioning for spiritual strength, a defense against pride, which is the greatest destroyer of man's spirituality. Pride is the real terror here. It divides relationships, destroys unity, hardens hearts, and strips of charity. Humility brings about mercy, which unifies and strengthens. It feeds man's spirituality because it leads them directly to the Source of spiritual nourishment, and that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know He lives and loves us. There is nothing we could possibly do, no weakness that we can possibly have, that can separate us from His love. He is mindful and aware of all of us, and we can see His influence as we begin looking for it. As we humble ourselves and recognize that we need His strength, He will give us the strength we need to overcome any weakness or obstacle.

I would like to close with a quote by Richard C. Edgley:

"Humbly submitting our will to the Father brings us the empowerment of God--the power of humility. It is the power to meet life's adversities, the power of peace, the power of hope, the power of a heart throbbing with a love and testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ, even the power of redemption."

I love you all! You are all in my prayers and I am so grateful for all the love and support I get from back home. Thank you all for following spiritual promptings and sending me letters. Over and over these past couple weeks I have received letters right at the moment I have felt alone and forgotten. So thank you all! :) I love you all so much and hope you have an excellent week full of adventure!!

-Sister Fox

Monday, July 7, 2014

You Never Know

Family! Friends! Fantastic Folks!

Greetings from Knoxville, Tennessee! It is a beautiful, clear morning and it's probably going to get hot today. Because guess what? It has hit 100 degrees several times in the past few weeks. 100 degrees. Paired with humidity. I know you're all secretly jealous of me. Y'all just won't admit it.

This week was really good! This one will go in chronological order again because my brain is so scattered this is probably the only way I will remember to include everything. Because lots of wonderful things happened this week and I don't want to leave anything out. So here it goes!

Monday we spent the day with the elders and sisters in the area playing sand volleyball in the elders' apartment complex. We also played get to know you games, and I learned all sorts of interesting facts about all my fellow missionary friends. The only interesting fact I could think of for myself is that I can whistle like a bird now. Later I thought of a few facts that are far more interesting, like having lived by dream by being a rock climbing model. I can never play those games because I can never think of something good on the spot. But hey. I can rest in peace knowing that all my friends know that I can whistle like a bird.

Monday evening we had dinner with a family in the ward with a ton of kids. I mean, a ton of kids. They have a pair of twins and a pair of triplets about 2 years apart. Their mother is a saint; she's amazing! They are such a solid family. The twins and triplets are 2 and 4 I believe. It was fun getting to know their family!

After dinner we had an appointment with one of our investigators named Christian, who has been investigating the church for quite some time. He is incredibly brilliant and probably knows more about church policy and history at this point than I do. It's hard for him to connect with the doctrine on an emotional and spiritual level, so we're trying to help him do that. That has been a challenge for me my entire mission; I can tell other people what faith is all I want, but helping them experience it presents a whole new kind of challenge. It has been really interesting though, and Christian is a wonderful kid. I kind of want him to meet Chelise because she could say lots of brilliant things that he would connect with.

Tuesday nothing really happened with the work in Pellissippi, though we tried our hardest. But! I received some excellent news at the Bishop's Storehouse while I was volunteering there! I was talking to an elder who is serving in the West Hills ward right now. He asked me if I had taught an investigator named Erica and I said that I had! Guess what?? She was baptized this past month!!! Quick flashback: We met Erica while we were trying to meet all the part-member families in the West Hills ward. Her husband was a member but hadn't been to church in years simply because he fell out of the habit. They are a beautiful family with two incredibly cute kids. Being new missionaries, we didn't really know how to get our foot in the door other than asking if we could "practice the lessons" on them. Note to future missionaries: don't do that. So when we asked her if she would read the Book of Mormon and stuff she was a bit confused because she thought we were practicing and we had failed to establish our purpose. However, we were able to commit her to take the rest of the discussions right before I was transferred. Now, one year later, she's baptized! Her husband was reactivated and he was able to perform the baptism. You just never know which of your planted seeds are going to grow!!! That piece of news made my life!!!

Wednesday we had dinner with another member, who told us about her conversion story. It was so inspiring; the moment she saw the missionaries on the porch she knew she wanted what they had. They asked her if they could come back and she told them no! Even though she knew that she needed them to! But after several years of moving around and meeting with missionaries, she and her husband were baptized. Those first missionaries who showed up on her doorstep probably still have no idea she was baptized. You just never know where you've planted a seed, and which of your planted seeds are going to grow!! That brings me so much comfort as a missionary. Through small and simple things great things really are brought to pass. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and sometimes another's conversion can be instigated simply by a knock on the door. Love it. The Church is true!!

Wednesday evening David had his baptismal interview and passed with flying colors! Elder Crestani, the District Leader, was really impressed with David's knowledge and testimony. I have a funny story from Wednesday as well! I was standing in the middle of the foyer reading a flyer about an open house at the Bishop's Storehouse. Suddenly, out of nowhere a hand extends into my peripheral vision. I look up to shake it and see a complete stranger wearing a nametag. I figured it was one of the welfare missionaries because they're everywhere and I never recognize them. He asked me how I was doing and I guess I looked kind of confused because he had to clarify who he was--it was President Griffin. I was so taken aback that the look on my face had the elders laughing for hours. So. That was my first impression on my new mission president. Score 1 for Sister Fox.

I LOVE President Griffin though! He is fantastic. But I'm not quite there yet because I didn't get to know him until Friday. So on with Wednesday evening.

Wednesday evening we had an appointment with a set of investigators that turned to be a bit disappointing. We thought they were a lot further along, but it turns out they have a lot of qualms with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and one of them openly admitted to reading anti-mormon material on the prophet and to believing Joseph to be a con artist. Appointments like that are always very upsetting to me. I have a strong testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and every time I hear someone speak out against him I take it as a personal blow. But, all you can do is bear witness of his divine calling, which we did. I know he was a prophet of God, and he has done more, save Jesus Christ only, for the salvation of man than any other mortal who has lived on this earth. I just pray for both of them that they will gain a personal testimony of the divinity of Joseph Smith's calling through reading the Book of Mormon. If that book is true, then so is everything else!

Thursday our plans were a bit shaky, but we ended up at the home of a certain less-active by no coincidence. She struggles with depression and was having a particularly rough day. Luckily our team-up that we brought with us was good friends with her, so she offered to clean her house. We threw open the blinds, let some light in, and deep-cleaned her living room. She was so grateful that she offered to say the closing prayer and thanked God for sending us to her that day to brighten up her day. You just never know who needs your help! There are people to bless every single day! There's a new philosophy I like to go by: every good thought is a spiritual prompting unless proven otherwise.

Friday we had our Zone Meeting! This is when I can tell all y'all about President Griffin. He is from Spring City Utah (I think that's the name) and he has a beautiful family. He brought three of his daughters with him out to Tennessee, and they are 15, 11, and 9 or something like that (now all y'all are probably starting to wonder how closely Sister Fox was paying attention). I love President and Sister Griffin so much. It's a little strange adjusting to a new mission president after having President and Sister Irion my whole mission, but it has strengthened my testimony of priesthood keys. The moment I sat down with President Griffin for our first interview I could see that he had the mantle of a mission president. I could already feel his love for me, and I knew instantly that he was here to help me for the last few weeks of my mission, and that his advice would help me for the rest of my mission and for my next phase in life. He and his wife are both incredibly nervous, but they have a strong desire to serve and I am so grateful for them being here.

Friday was also my last Zone Meeting. :( It ended on a good note: the trainings were great, and I had the opportunity to bear my testimony as the meeting came to a close, as tradition holds in the TKM. I love these missionaries so much and I will miss them dearly. We also had the opportunity to perform the same musical number that we had performed at the Irion's farewell, which was fun. I will miss all the special musical numbers. Those have been a huge part of my mission.

Oh yeah, and Friday was my birthday. Y'all know what's funny? I kept forgetting it was my birthday throughout the whole week until someone else would bring it up. But all day Friday I remembered. I'm not that brain-dead. My lovely companions gave me a friendly little reminder at midnight on Friday morning that it was my birthday. It went like this:

Random voices in the dark: Should we do it? No. Maybe we should do it tomorrow. No we should do it now! What if it scares her? Let's just do it.
Me (in my head): What in the blazes is going on in the middle of the night . . . ?
Companions: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!

And so on and so forth.

And then I found myself being sung to in the middle of the room at Zone Meeting. And I'm sure it happened again several times after that, but I didn't commit it to memory.

It was a good birthday! My lovely companions and fellow missionaries made me french toast, we decorated the apartment to look all festive, and I had two packages to open (one from Mom and the other from Marissa--thank you both so so so much!!!!!) full of food!!!! The cliff bars are already gone. :) Yeup. I love cliff bars.

It is also tradition at Zone Meeting to have a zone activity after the meeting. So after it was over we played kick ball. Which is the sport I probably dislike above all other sports. Actually, omit the word "probably" and replace it with the word "definitely." But! We played Tomahawk right after and I love that sport. And guess who made the winning goal??? BIRTHDAY KARMA! And there was much rejoicing. :)

They tell you on your mission you discover your talents. I had no idea that some of my talents would include whistling like a bird and being able to throw a football into a basketball hoop.

After Zone Meeting we tried to meet with a few people but it was the 4th of July so nobody really wanted to meet with us. However! We had a member in the ward sign up to feed us, and he took us out for dinner at Chiles! It was perfectly delicious. :) And he secretly told the staff it was my birthday, so I got free ice cream and a little song that sounded something like:
HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FROM ALL OF US TO YOU! WE WISH IT WAS OUR BIRTHDAY, SO WE COULD PARTY TOO! I felt pretty validated.

THEN! We had nowhere to go for fireworks. At least at first. Then David texted us five times and called us twice while we were in an appointment to invite us to go downtown with him and Bethany and watch fireworks!!! They have no idea how much that meant to me. I was kind of worried I wouldn't get a good fireworks show, because I haven't really gotten a good show in a couple of years and I was starting to miss it. They were an answer to a prayer! I talk about David and Bethany a lot because they are the sweetest couple ever and I feel close to both of them already. Bethany told me several times that she had hoped that I was having a good birthday, and that really meant a lot to me. They made it amazing! They took us to downtown Knoxville to a park right by the Sun Sphere, and there we enjoyed funnel cakes and good company. Then we made our way to the top of the parking garage, where we had an excellent view of a spectacular fireworks show. I got it all on camera! It's probably not as cool on camera but at least I have it. So poof! There ya have it. Best birthday ever.

Saturday was David's baptism! Best belated birthday present ever! It was an excellent service. David was very excited, and afterward he said that he felt so much spiritual energy he felt like he was vibrating. I haven't been here very long and I haven't taught either David or Bethany very much, but I am still so grateful to be a part of their story. I felt so much joy as David came up out of the water and hugged Brother Moss. Now all David wants to do is share the gospel with everyone, and it is incredibly inspiring! He received the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday and he is incredibly happy. Missionary work is the best! I love being able to witness events like this. :)

What is so cool about their story is how they came in contact with the church in the first place. When they were looking for a place to go, they thought about trying the Mormon church because Bethany had worked with a couple Mormons and was impressed with them. You never know how your example will help in the conversion of another soul down the road! It builds my testimony of the importance of always being a good example to others, and treating them as Christ would.

Another cool little story that happened Saturday involved a letter I received in the mail from a fellow missionary from the Chattanooga zone. Flashback: As a Sister Training Leader I made it a goal to write a letter to every sister missionary with whom I had gone on exchanges. I wrote a letter to this particular sister and had every intention to give it to her at transfers. But! I left it in the car and forgot about it because I'm a space case. Then it got lost among all of my random possessions. I found it several weeks later while I was unpacking, and I felt a bit sheepish, but I sent it off anyway with a little prayer that she would benefit from it somehow, even though it was really late.

Flash forward! I get a letter from this missionary saying that my "late" letter had actually come right on time; she had been having a really tough day and had just had an emotional breakdown before checking the mail. Her companion was praying that someone would say something nice to her, and that's when she got my letter in the mail! She said it helped her a lot and that it had come at just the right moment.

You never know which of your good deeds will end up blessing someone's life! You never know which seeds you have planted will grow. It is a testimony builder to always act on a good prompting, to never get discouraged if it seems like your seeds aren't growing, and to trust that God can take your small and simple acts and use them to bless the lives of others. Because you never know what is going to happen. All you can do is do your best to show charity and Christlike love to the people around you. You never know who will be touched by your good deeds.

To end, I would like to include a poem that President Thomas S. Monson included in his latest General Conference address:

I have wept in the night
For the shortness of sight
That to somebody's need made me blind,
But I never have yet
Felt a tinge of regret
For being a little too kind.

My challenge for all of you is to pray for charity this week and go out and serve somebody. The Lord will multiply your efforts and you will be the means of blessing lives and bringing people closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As you do, you will feel an increase of His love for you.

Thank you all so much for your love and prayers on my behalf, as well as the advice. I feel so much love coming from everyone back home and it means so much to me. It means a lot to know that the things I am learning are blessing people back home, and I am also blessed by the things that all of you are learning and sharing with me. I love you all and hope you all have an excellent week! Until next week,

-Sister Fox

Monday, June 30, 2014

Forward, not Backward

Hello Family and Friends and other Fantastic blog readers!!! (Just for clarification, I'm calling the readers fantastic, not the blog. Just in case some people were thinking that I'm getting a big head or something . . .)

This week was really weird and I have a weird mixture of emotions going on inside my skull (cuz . . that's where they're located?) that I can't really put into words, so who knows how this post will turn out?

But, for the most part, this week was good. So no worries there. :)

Monday we played basketball as a zone! And by "we" I mean the elders and the one sister who has basketball skills. I sat on the stage and wrote letters while trying not to get nailed by said basketball. I succeeded for the most part.

Monday night we had a cookout and a family home evening with some members in the ward. Do you know that a barbecue and a cookout are two different things?? More proof that I'm not from the South: I thought they were one in the same. A barbecue is when you put barbecue sauce on it. Because if there's no barbecue sauce, then it's not BBQ. A cookout is when you just "cook" things "out" on your grill. No BBQ. So that provides an explanation in advance as to why I'm going to be all picky about what I call food gatherings in the future.

Anyway.

The family home evening went really well! We met Joy and Gary, an older couple who have been investigating the church for quite some time. We watched a mormon message on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and talked about how it changes our lives, and how that change is made possible through baptism by authority and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They both said they are still searching for the truth, but if they come to know that all this is true then they will be baptized. I have really high hopes for them; they are amazing people. The spirit was really strong and I could feel God's love for them. That's one of the incredible blessings of being a missionary; we have the opportunity to feel God's love for others. It's overwhelming to think about how much He truly loves us. I have felt that love so much this week. More on that in a minute.

Tuesday we volunteered at the Bishop's Storehouse in Knoxville and I saw ward members from West Hills!! And that is where Sister Roundy is serving so I got to say hi to her!! It was fantastic. :) It was like a family reunion! Except instead of eating tons of food we were putting it all in boxes. It was the first time I've volunteered at a storehouse, and it was really cool to see how much effort the church puts into providing relief for families. We volunteer every Tuesday, so I'm excited to go back tomorrow!

The highlight of Wednesday was dinner with David and Bethany! I love those two. They are probably the most lovely couple you could ever meet, and they are friendly and fun! They took us to Cheddars, which is one of my favorite restaurants in Knoxville, then we went back to their place for a lesson. David is going to be baptized this Saturday and we are really excited for him! He's excited too. They both have been blessed with incredible gifts that will bless the lives of those around them; I'm excited to see what the Lord has in store for them! The best part of this being my last area is that I won't have the cliffhanger problem when I leave! #facebook.

Speaking of leaving, Thursday was an interesting experience for me. We were visiting a member named Edie (who is amazing, by the way! She knows tons of government officials and she has formally introduced several missionaries to the mayor of Knoxville. She is one of the best public relations specialists I have ever met!) when we ran into a couple of sisters who were visiting some of their favorite places that they served when they were missionaries here. I actually knew both of them: Sister Cady and Sister Preston! I served with Sister Cady twice while I was on exchanges. On just those two exchanges, she taught me so much about how to be a missionary, and successfully changed the course of my mission. Twice. I've looked up to her since I first came out. It was so fun to see her again! Sister Preston was my first Sister Training Leader and I really look up to her as well. They were really solid missionaries. Sister Cady told me a lot about what it's like to not be a missionary anymore and it kind of scared me a bit. She got emotional as she shared her experience with losing the mantle of a missionary and having to rediscover how the Spirit communicates with her. It was a hard adjustment for her.

So that put my spirits into a weird state of affairs. I don't really know how to say this without offending anyone. So I'm just gonna tell it how it is; I may or may not have been unable to sleep at night due to nightmares, and I'm thinking that they're mostly caused by the stress I feel about going home.

But let me explain. No, it's too much, let me sum up:

I am really *really* attached to my calling as a missionary. This has been an experience, like I've said before, that I will always hold sacred. I feel so close to God serving as His personal representative that I'm scared to think of the differences that will occur in my own spirituality by losing my calling. Not that I think I will regress in my spirituality (I sure hope not), but that the growth won't be so rapid. And for some reason or another that saddens and scares me.

Plus, change is really hard for me. When I grow attached to people, my heart breaks to leave them. Losing myself in the service of God 24/7 has changed my life, and it will feel so different devoting my time to other things. It's hard to put into words, but to be honest I am really scared to leave this lifestyle behind.

At least I was all last week. I had to do yoga and meditation in the evenings to calm myself down so I could sleep. Every time someone brought up the end of my mission my heart sank a little. And it still does a bit. But! I'm feeling a lot better now. And that's because of Elder Holland.

Yeup! Elder Holland. He is the one that inspired me to serve a mission, and now he's the one that is inspiring me to end it with a spirit of gratitude.

The talk he gave entitled, "The First Great Commandment" is the one that inspired me to serve a mission, if anyone is curious.

I read a talk by him just this morning entitled, "Remember Lot's Wife." Oh heavens. Go read it.

Usually when people are discussing what happened to Lot's wife, they teach about the importance of leaving behind a sinful life. In this case, Elder Holland speaks about the importance of living in the present and looking toward the future with an eye of faith. Faith, he says, is "always pointed toward the future." In the case of Lot's wife, part of her sin was that "she doubted the Lord's ability to give her something better than she already had." Whoa. If that wasn't a personal call to repentance I don't know what was.

Elder Holland goes on to say that we shouldn't dwell on past mistakes either. This isn't too relative to what I was talking about earlier but it's good so I'm including it in this post anyway. As we dwell on our past mistakes and imperfections, or the mistakes and imperfections of others, "it stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ." It "rips out of [our] grasp that for which Christ has grasped [us]. God does not care nearly as much about where we have been as He does about where we are and where we are willing to go with His help.

But back to looking to the future with an eye of faith, Elder Holland concludes his miraculous address by saying, "Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there." Change, at times, is hard to accept. Sometimes we long for the past. The past is meant to be learned from, but not lived in. We should not let our attachments to our past--or our fears from it--prevent us from obtaining the blessings of the glorious future God has in store for each and every one of us. As Thomas S. Monson once stated, "Your future is as bright as your faith." God has a miraculous plan for each and every one of us. That includes temporary interruptions that we see as endings. But, in the eternal scheme of things, these are not endings, but everlasting beginnings, as mentioned in this past General Conference by President Uchtdorf.

So, to me, going home means the end of my time as a full-time missionary, but it is not the end of my mission, and it certainly isn't the end of my life. It will be different, but if I welcome it with a spirit of faith and gratitude, it can and will be just as glorious as my mission. I feel inspired by the words of Paul, "For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Philippians 4:11).

Now, this probably sounds repetitive, because I'm pretty sure almost every post for the last several weeks has been about me coming to terms spiritually about going home/not being a missionary anymore. Rest assured, I'm making progress. I'm just happy God is patient. :)

One last verse to finish:

D&C 128:22 - "Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad."

As we walk through life, we should always look forward with an eye of faith and see the beauty of God's plan as it unfolds for each and every one of us.

And yes, I love you all and miss you all, so keep that in mind as you read these posts. :)

I wish I had more time to tell y'all about the rest of my week! . . . Sister Fox's week in 2 minutes GO!

Friday we helped someone move and then we had to push off weekly planning because we were so busy, then we saw a less active who is coming back to church (he came!!!) named Jordan and a recent convert named John who said he wants to serve a mission (YAY!!!)! Then we saw a member named Ronnie and his girlfriend Cassie whom we taught the next day and she agreed to be baptized (YAY!!!!!!!!!!)! And we met our landlord and he is really nice.

Saturday we went to the Irion's farewell at the church and we performed! I performed in a trio with Sister Gotchy and Sister Clark, and we sang a gorgeous rendition of Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy. Then as a district we sang the EFY medley. Sister Irion bawled all the way through it. I'm going to miss those two! I love them so much!

Sunday we went to the Bishop's house for dinner and he invited David and Bethany, so it was awesome! We all played Loaded Questions together to get to know eachother better and it was a blast. That game is hilarious! Y'all should go buy it. We laughed and had a good time, shared a message about eternal families, and went home.

Sunday night we were talking together as roommates and started wondering why so many of us were having trouble sleeping and didn't feel at peace. Then we found out our apartment hadn't been dedicated so we dedicated it and the atmosphere already feels so much lighter. It's amazing how the presence of the Spirit can change an atmosphere in a home!!!

I love you lots!!!! Have a wonderful week!!

-Sister Fox

Monday, June 23, 2014

Was it Worth It?

Hello Family, Friends, and Followers!

The Church is true!!!

Can I just say transfers are bizarre? Each time I'm transferred I find myself trying to adjust to a new ward, new companions, and new perspectives on how missionary work is done. I am in my fifth area and it feels like I've served five different missions. Each place is so vastly different but incredibly special in its own way. Each area becomes a sacred place to me, because each one stretches me in different ways and transforms my character into something more Christlike than I could have imagined. I'm excited to see what this new area will teach me!

Where am I, you may ask? CHATT BRANCH! I got transferred to downtown Chattanooga!!!!!!!!!

Just kidding. :)

Couldn't resist.

I am in Pellissippi! I actually came here once before on exchanges with Sister Cady over a year ago. The Pellissippi ward borders the West Hills ward, so I feel like I'm back in my second area. It is also quite surprising how close I am to Farragut. The mission office is only about 5 minutes away; I've never been this close to the mission office before. I have two companions again! We are in another trio. Companions #11 and #12, Sister Gotchy (Go-chee) and Sister Leifson (layf-son). Everyone pronounces their names incorrectly so I thought I would throw the correct pronunciation in there. Everyone gets mine right, though! =D

My companions are awesome. Sister Leifson was actually a missionary serving down in the Philippines but had to transfer to the states for health reasons. She's been out for about 7 months. Sister Gotchy goes home the transfer after I do, so we're all pretty seasoned missionaries.

Y'all would not believe the apartment. It's actually not an apartment; it's a condo. I feel perfectly spoiled. It's the size of a house! Huge kitchen, two floors, 2 bedrooms, 2 studies, 3 bathrooms, and a 2 car garage to house our 2013 Chevy Cruise.
Yes. We are spoiled.

GUESS WHAT? Because our apartment/condo is so huge, we share it with another set of missionaries. So I have two extra roommates! Sister Clark and . . . Sister DAY! They live upstairs and we live downstairs. It has been so fun!! Having Sister Day here as I finish my mission will be a huge help to me, and I'm sure it will be helpful for her as well. It's nice to be surrounded by amazing people!!

So! This week, like most weeks, was awesome and perfectly difficult. Change is always hard, but it builds character. Missions teach you to adjust to change, that's for sure. Once you get comfortable they boot you out to another place! But everywhere you go, you know it's where the Lord wants you. That's what is so fantastic about the mission. You know, without a doubt, that wherever you are is exactly where the Lord wants you to be. It's an incredible blessing.

Monday we had Family Home Evening with Dominique again. We taught the Plan of Salvation and talked about baptism by Priesthood Authority. It definitely gave her something new to think about, but she's open to finding out for herself if these things are true. She left town, so Sisters Lee and Johnson won't be able to teach her for a couple weeks, but I hope they find success.

Do you know what's great about a mission? You get to meet so many people and hear all their amazing stories. Do you know what's hard about a mission? You have to leave people right in the middle of the story so your life becomes a series of endless cliffhangers. Like Lost.

Anyway.

Tuesday we spent the day saying goodbye to all my favorite people and it was hard because I love them like I love my own family. The Hixson ward truly became my family and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to spend such a long time with all of them. I'm coming back to visit! It's happening.

Funny story about saying goodbyes, I went to say goodbye to Sister Adamz, one of the older widows in the ward. She is a sweet old woman but she's not afraid to tell you how it is and what's on her mind. Every time we visit her she sends us off with ice cream, pie, cookies, brownies, you name it. She sent us off with pie this time and I said, "Sister Adamz, I'm going to miss all your delicious stuff!! . . . And you, of course. I'll miss you more." To which she replied, "Well I'M delicious STUFF!!" I don't think I stopped laughing until I went to bed that evening. Seniors are the best. :)

Tuesday we also said goodbye to Shirley, and that was a tough one because I've grown really close to her. She is so close to feeling well enough to come to church, and she said she would come if we got her a ride. I hope she came yesterday! #cliffhangers. I'm just grateful for the opportunity I had to teach her, and I'm excited for her to go back to the temple and be a fully active member again. I can already tell it has brought her so much peace and joy. That is what the Gospel does, you know. :)

Tuesday evening I said goodbye to the Smiths, which was also hard because I love that family. They are progressing pretty well, and they said they would come to church. So. I hope they made it yesterday. #cliffhangers.

I'm not coming back to the area for another year; I feel like I'm waiting for the next Harry Potter book or something.

Wednesday was transfer day. Sister Phillips drove us 2 hours to Farragut, where we all met for our transfer meeting. This one was particularly tough because President and Sister Irion had to give their departing testimonies. I will miss them so much, but I am excited to meet President and Sister Griffin. What's cool is that the mission president is in the ward that shares our church building, so I ran into President and Sister Irion yesterday, and we will be throwing them a goodbye party this weekend. So I will get to see them again!! It's awesome.

Wednesday evening we went to see a couple of investigators, David and Bethany. They are a young married couple with very strong testimonies about the restored gospel. They're amazing! They know it's true, but they're facing a lot of opposition right now. They're so solid; David's favorite thing is to look up old General Conference talks online. He'll spend hours reading and watching Conference talks, studying up on Church history, and learning as much as he can about the Church. He was even reading Conference addresses given back in the 1970s. He is going to be baptized next Saturday! Best birthday present ever!

Thursday we had our weekly planning, we met with the Ward Mission Leader, and we started to familiarize ourselves with the area. This ward is pretty big, and we are the only set of missionaries. This is the first time on my mission that I have had a ward to myself; I've shared my 4 other wards with at least one set of missionaries, sometimes 2. So, we have plenty to do! It's quite nice. The people are amazing and incredibly helpful. They refer to this area as the Promised Land; I believe it! It's fantastic.

Friday we had our first district meeting and I love my district already. The missionaries in this area are incredible and I'm excited to learn from them. This is going to be an amazing transfer!

Saturday we had our Sisters Conference Call. We have it once per transfer to build unity among the sisters in the mission. We hear the testimonies of the new sisters, the testimonies of the departing sisters, and whatever trainings President and Sister Irion want to present. This time there were 14 departing sisters so the entire call was dedicated to them.
I mean us. Because. I'm one of those. :(

It was an incredible call though. Because hearing testimonies takes a little too long, Sister Irion had us answer this question, "Are you happy you served a mission? Why?" She also sent out a little text saying that if we aren't happy we served a mission we could text her and she wouldn't call on us.

I was happy to see that all 14 sisters were called upon to share their thoughts. :)

Why is that? Because missions are *amazing*. This was one of the hardest testimonies to put together for me. How could I possibly sum up why I'm happy I served a mission? Given time and paper, I could write a book of reasons why I'm happy I came out here. But I had to sum it up in two minutes.

My mission has been hard. Leaving behind the life I loved and everything that I wanted was the hardest thing I've ever done. For almost 18 months I have struggled against the power of the adversary, facing heartache after heartache as people I love have failed to make the changes that would bring them the happiness that I enjoy. I've been laughed at, ridiculed, and screamed at. My faith has been targeted and torn apart like it never has before. My heart has broken on so many occasions as I have had to watch people that I love struggle under the weight of the world and give into temptation. All 14 of us faced these challenges and more. Was it worth it?

In the end, it was worth it to each and every one of us. More than worth it. There was no question. Of course I wasn't going to send a text to Sister Irion to ask to not be called upon. And as I listened to the conviction of those other 13 sisters who came out to the field with me, I pieced together in my heart the reason why.

Every single sister talked about the Atonement.

Missionary work is centered on the Atonement. Our purpose is to help others change through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In the process, we, too, are changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The first lesson I learned as a missionary after a really rough night in the MTC ( I would elaborate but I don't have time) was that your mission is not about you.

The wonderful paradox of serving a mission is that it really is all about you. Our missions are tailored to our personality and character to help us experience the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Every single experience I have had, both challenging and easy, has pointed me toward my Savior Jesus Christ. I have overcome weaknesses I never thought I could overcome. I have been able to weave Christlike attributes into my character like I never have before. My testimony has been fortified like it never has before. No matter how challenging our lives may be, each of these challenges can point us toward the Atonement if we let it. That is why my mission has been so sacred to me. Though challenging, it has helped me experience the Atonement. It has made me so much stronger. It has helped me develop a commitment to the Gospel that I will never lose. It has helped me understand that change is possible for anyone, no matter where they are on the path. It has helped me see how the Gospel--how the Atonement--changes people. Words cannot describe the blessings that flow from serving a mission. It is something I will always hold sacred and something I will never ever regret.

It is the hardest thing I have ever loved to do. :)

So I used those two minutes to testify of the healing and sanctifying powers of the atonement, and the joy that comes from seeing it in others and seeing it in myself. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything, even the times I found myself sobbing on my knees. Each experience has shaped me into a person I have truly come to love, and has helped me come to love and trust my Savior in profound ways. I love this Gospel. I love this work. It is absolutely and perfectly worth it.

Serve a mission. :)

I love you all!! I hope you have a great week and I will update y'all on my adventures next Monday!!

-Sister Fox