Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Breaking of the Fellowship


Well family and friends, this is the week the law firm splits up. Fox and Stone are going their separate ways. And there was much sorrow upon all the face of Clinton Tennessee. 

Yet much relief in the heart of Sister Fox because she gets to STAY!!! Hooray!!!! Yeup, I'm staying in my beautiful Pleasant Ridge North area! I will get to stay for Marty's baptism, Travis and Angel's wedding, and hopefully their baptisms!! And maybe Caitlyn's baptism. And Kathy's baptism. And hopefully Jerry's baptism if we can get him to agree to it. And Sister Mortensen gets to stay with me!!! And there was much rejoicing. I absolutely love Sister Mortensen. She brings much needed laughter into my life, and she's a fantastic missionary. This transfer is going to be great! Sister Stone is going to be training a new missionary elsewhere, though we won't find out until Wednesday. And I guess we won't figure out who gets to be the Senior companion and driver until Wednesday either. I'll be honest, I miss driving. I kind of hope I get to drive the car.
I have more funny stories this week! Why is it that the funniest of stories always involve sleeptalking companions? I don't know. But I digress. So yet again I woke up in the middle of the night to Sister Stone grumbling to herself. She seemed pretty upset this time. More so than the time she was praying and said she wanted to be cool. This time the grumbling was followed by an outburst that caught me by surprise: "Aww, man!!! Now we have to teach that STUPID angel!!!" I just lay there in silence and tried really hard not to burst out laughing, lest I wake up my companions. But we surely had a fit when I told them the story in the morning. I'm going to miss my sleeptalking companion, let me tell ya!
I also have some random stuff! First, I want to thank Mom for the JetAlert, because no other substance on the face of this planet can cure my headaches as well as that stuff. So thank you!! Also, guess what?? I finished memorizing the first two sections of Joseph Smith: History! And there was much rejoicing. It was the greatest experience. I would encourage everyone to memorize at least the account when he has the actual vision; it's just a couple verses. You feel so much closer to both the Prophet Joseph and the Savior as you memorize those words, and it has helped tremendously when testifying of the reality of the First Vision. So that's your homework assignment for this week! Or maybe just read the whole account if you don't like memorizing things. There is a lot of power in that account, and it brings a powerful Spirit into your heart as you read and study it.
This week was pretty good! We had a lot of hard things happen, but we also had a lot of good things happen. I guess I'll start with the hard things so we can get to the good things. This weekend was tough; we had appointment after appointment fall through. They either dropped us over the phone, or just wouldn't answer the door. It was a little discouraging. It's hard to have a full schedule at the beginning of the day and watch everything fall through right before your eyes. What's harder is when you lose investigators. Last night we were on our way to teach Amanda and William when we received a text message from them. They apologized to us and said they really just want to raise their girls in a Baptist Church, because it's familiar and comfortable. We've been trying to teach this family for the past two transfers, but they haven't been keeping their commitments at all, and almost every appointment drops. So we had to let them go last night. It's hard losing investigators, but it's at moments like these I gain a special appreciation for the Plan of Salvation. Christ loves all of us so much, He wants to give all of us the opportunity to accept His gospel. So even if people don't accept it in this life, they have a chance to accept it in the Spirit World. I love how He is willing to give all of us a second chance. It helps me remain hopeful for the people I have grown to love.
I guess it's these experiences that make us stronger and help us grow closer to the Savior, as long as we have the determination to remain diligent. I've learned a thing or two about diligence this week. There was a really good quote in our District Meeting this week: "Diligence is following through, in your moment of weakness, what you set out to do in your moment of strength." So true. It is in our moments of strength we make life-changing decisions and align our will with God's. We decide to change, we decide to be better, we decide to sacrifice something to do God's will. But the initial decision is not the only test of our faith. Our faith is tried after we make these kinds of decisions, in our moments of weakness and discouragement. Our faith grows if we rely on God, align our will with His, and stick to what we set out to do. I've learned that a lot out here. Choosing to serve a mission was hard, and the decision itself was a major test of faith. But since then my faith has been tried even harder, and my faith in my purpose grows stronger and stronger each time it is tried in a moment of weakness, as long as I focus on my purpose and what God's will is for me. Just remember, when times get hard, open the scriptures and study about faith. God always works according to faith, as long as it is His will.
Though many did not recognize us as God's messengers this week, there were a few who did, and those experiences were incredible. We went over to teach Marty (Larry and Marlene's son, for those who don't remember) a couple times this week, and he is progressing really really quickly. He is feasting on the word; he has been up late reading the Book of Mormon. He is determined to learn for himself if the Church is true. We taught him about repentance this week, as well as keeping the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Tithing and Fasting. I learned so much from him this week. When we committed him to follow these commandments, he readily agreed, and said that it was the least he could do, giving up five simple substances and 1/10 of his paycheck after everything that God has done for him. He just gets it. We focused on the blessings of keeping the commandments, though he said something I will never forget. He said we shouldn't repent just for the blessings. We should repent out of a personal desire to follow God. If we repent half-heartedly, where's the change? What's the point? So true. If we only give God half of our hearts, then He can only change half our heart. But what about the other half? A determination to follow God takes a willing heart; the whole heart. Are we following God with our whole heart? Or do we say half-hearted prayers? Or do we only have half-hearted scripture study? Food for thought.
We also got to see Travis this week. Travis. His progress this week made up for all of the disappointments we saw the entire week. He and Angel are getting married, and will be getting baptized a week later. This week he gave up everything. Everything! The Elders went over to visit with him, and he quit everything cold turkey. He handed over his tobacco, his drugs, his coffee, his magazines, everything. We were talking to him when we had dinner with their entire family, and he talked about the change that was going on inside of him. He talked about how in the past ten years he was desperately looking for a sense of peace. And now he finally has it. He found peace through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He feels a change in him. And I can see it in his eyes; there is a light there that wasn't there before. His relationship with Angel is so much stronger, and even their 4 year old son seems happier. I love seeing how the gospel has changed him. We were making dinner plans with him on the phone the other day, and he said, "The longer we get to spend in God's company, the better." I just love him. He recognizes us as messengers of Jesus Christ. I just love this whole family. I love how the gospel has touched every single one of them. Right now we're also trying to work with Sheila, who is still trying to get permission from her husband to be baptized. He said he is thinking about meeting with us, which is a huge breakthrough. At first, he was entirely against it; his whole family is very much Baptist. We're so grateful his heart is softening, and we're praying it will soften even further. I have a feeling it will though. Larry, Marlene, Travis, Marty, and Sheila will be sealed together in the temple. I just know it will. I have so much faith in this family; they are some of the strongest people I have ever met. And I am so excited I get at least one more transfer with them. I am so excited to see how they progress. I just can't say it enough: I love missionary work!
We got a new investigator this week! We were going out with a member, and she referred us to a less-active member whose wife is baptist. Just like Larry and Marlene were when we met them. What a coincidence! Anyway, her name is Casey, and she is super adorable. She didn't seem too interested at first, but once we started testifying of eternal families, she wanted to hear more of our message. Unfortunately she ran into some family trouble and we haven't been able to go back for a return appointment, but we're going to try again next week! I see a lot of potential in her.
We also got to see Kathy and Jerry this week, though it was brief. Kathy's dad is still recuperating from his accident, and Kathy hasn't been able to come to Church or see us for a while. We taught her about the importance of looking to God in times of trial, and that helped calm her down. We also were able to teach her daughter Jessica, and she agreed to have us over at her place this week to teach the lessons. We'll be seeing her tomorrow, and we hope all goes well! This family is also incredible. They are passing through the refiner's fire right now, but they are incredibly strong. It's amazing how much I'm learning from these people; I feel like I learn more from them than they learn from me. I just love missions. You get to associate with incredible people every single day.
This week we also got to go on exchanges! Sister Mortensen and I spent the day with Sister Cady, who is probably one of the cutest people I have ever met. She is also a fantastic missionary. No matter who we passed, she would always exclaim, "Jesus loves you!!" She would yell it out the car window, say it on random people's porches, or say it to random people in the gas station. No matter who it was, she found teaching opportunities, and always loves to talk about how much God loves His children. I learned a lot about obedience and diligence from her, and she helped me find even more enthusiasm in the work. She also taught me how to do a cowgirl call. If you think I'm going to demonstrate it for you when we Skype on Mothers' Day you have somethin' else coming. Because I'm really bad at it. But I digress. We got to meet all sorts of fun people too! She introduced us to an investigator who is an incredible artist, who generously gave us some cards she designed herself. So guess what mom? You are getting a very lovely Mothers' Day card. Be excited. We also got to meet a couple teenage girls who are super excited to get baptized! We taught them the Plan of Salvation and they drank it in. They asked all the right questions and kept talking about how it made so much sense to them. I was so impressed with them. They are going to make wonderful missionaries in the future!
Well, that was my week in a nutshell. It will be so different carrying on this work without Sister Stone. She has touched so many hearts in this area, and I know there are a lot of people here who will miss her terribly. I can only hope that Sister Mortensen and I can continue the work here and keep finding success. There are more lives to touch, and more people who need to hear the Gospel! Let's go out and find them!!
I love you all so much. SO. Much. Thank you all for your letters! It's amazing how missionaries crave them. I had no idea. Now I feel bad for all the missionaries I neglected to write. And many of them are coming home pretty soon! Welcome home to all of them! They don't even know I'm out here. I guess they'll find out in a few months. But I digress. Thank you all for the prayers, love, and support. I can feel them strengthening me every single day. The work can be difficult and discouraging at times, but the good times always follow! Jesus loves you!!
And so do I. =D
Much love,
Sister Fox

Saturday, April 20, 2013

No Growth in your Comfort Zone and No Comfort in your Growth Zone

Family!
Friends!
And others who may not fit into either category for whatever reason!
Hello there! It's p-day again! And my 12th one! Do you know what this means?! I've been out here 3 months and time flies. That's what I have concluded anyway. Moving on.
I have a lot of random fun to detail this week. But first, I should give a public congratulations to my beautiful cousin who got married this last Friday. I wish you all the best! I also want to congratulate one of my preschool friends who is getting married in a couple weeks. I wish you all the best as well!
So my week was pretty good.  I'll begin with the story of when we were driving in the car with the window rolled down and a bee landed on Sister Stone. I am still saying prayers of gratitude that she wasn't the one driving this time. The commotion that ensued was nothing short of hysterical. Sister Mortensen and I would have gladly helped her had we not been doubled over laughing in the back seat. Sister Stone has a phobia of bees. 'Nuff said. Even the member who was driving us to our appointment thought it was hysterical. Her six year old daughter totally kept her composure in the back seat and was shouting at Sister Stone, "Sister Stone!! Don't scream, it'll sting you!!" She looked at me and said, "I'm not afraid of bees. I just squish them." Oh she's adorable!
I have this random urge to tell you about my climbing adventures last Monday. Even though. It wasn't adventurous. Like, at all. But our trio and another group of sisters found a playground outside a recreation center to hang out at last week, and there was a climbing wall! Of sorts. It was plastic. And probably six feet tall. Was I up it in seconds anyway? Yes. Yes I was. So that was fun. We also played basketball together as a district. Sorta. Sister Mortensen and I didn't want to join the Elders' game because it was getting really intense and we don't like basketball all that much. So we found another basketball and started shooting hoops. Except our ball was full of so much air, it kept bouncing right out of the rim. So we decided to add a little spice to it and hit the ball against the ground and watch it fly. I actually made several baskets that way! It was awesome. And a great way to relieve stress, let me tell ya. Missionaries are really easily entertained.
Well, it's definitely Spring here! Do ya know how I know? Because everyone and their dog are buying puppies. Well . . . I guess just everyone. Minus the dogs. Because . . .they're buying dogs. So they don't actually have the dogs until they buy the puppies. Moving on. We visited two different families this week who had bought newborn chihuahuas. Now, I don't like chihuahuas. But they are super adorable as puppies. They were small enough to cup in one hand. I even could fit one in my bag! But they wouldn't let me take him home. Bother.
And the trees are blooming! It's so gorgeous! Oh my heavens, Tennessee. I love Utah, and I miss those mountains, but the trees here are something else. It's so beautiful seeing thousands of trees all turn green, white, and pink all at once. It's beautiful!! I'm really happy I get to spend two Springs here. And it's super warm! I love it. Nice and humid. That won't be fun in the Summer, but for now I love it.
OOOOh speaking of weather, I got to experience my very first Tornado warning!! Oh it was awesome. Sadly, there was no tornado. I was disappointed. You think I'm kidding. I'm not. But the storm was super neat! It put thunderstorms in Utah to SHAME. It's cool, because the lightning here lights up the entire sky, and you can see the silhouette of all of the trees. It looks super cool! And every thunderclap is a ground-shaking explosion. The rain is torrential; it comes down in sheets. I think it rained more that one night than it has in Utah for the past year and a half. It's so legit. I hear storms like that happen all Summer! Bring it on!
So, the work isn't flying as fast as it has the past few weeks, but we have hit milestones with several of our investigators! I am still in awe at just how prepared this area is. The people here are so ready to hear the Gospel, and the people we are teaching, for the most part, are so penitent and willing to yield their hearts to God. It's truly a blessing to serve here. I have a few stories this week concerning our investigators I would like to share! We'll start with Travis. This week we finally did the right thing and handed him off to the Elders in that area. It was hard because Travis was an investigator of ours who was progressing the fastest, but he doesn't actually live in our area. He seemed fine with the handoff though, and took to the Elders really well. We had another lesson with him this week and read a few scriptures in the Book of Mormon about faith, hope, and charity. After discussing what those are, he asked us, "I'm going to have to lose my earrings, aren't I?" We  just sat there. Where did that come from? We hadn't taught him about the importance of not defiling our bodies, but he told us that the Spirit told him he needed to take them out. So before we even answered he reached up and took them out. He's willing to do all it takes to turn his life around and follow the Savior. What an example.
And we received excellent news from him yesterday! His girlfriend, Angel, committed to be baptized! We were sad we couldn't be there to witness it, but the news made us happy all the same. And they're going to be married! After we taught them chastity we told them they would have to marry or separate, and they decided together to be married the day of their baptism. We're so happy and excited for them! I just love how their whole family is coming together. It has been so cool to witness the changes in this family. It started with Larry and Marlene, and now Travis and Angel are turning their lives around, we committed Marty to be baptized, and once we get Sheila's husband okay with the idea, we will commit Sheila to be baptized. And then their entire family will have been baptized! I just love them. I hope I get to stick around to see their stories continue to take shape. Transfers are coming up next Wednesday and I won't know until this Saturday morning if I stay or go. It would be tough to go; leaving this area would be like dropping a novel right in the middle without picking it up again. I want to see how these people continue to progress toward the temple. But even if I don't get to see it, I know that God will always watch out for them. And that gives me comfort, knowing the people I love are always in good hands.
This week we also met twice with Sharon, who is a recent convert with two sons, Quentin and Trevin. It has been a challenge trying to meet with both her sons at once, but we finally got a little lesson in this week. Sharon has been going through a really rough time as of late; she lives in a rough patch of neighborhood, and her sons are struggling with their own problems as well. We recommended a talk to her by Elder Holland entitled, "Lessons Learned in Liberty Jail." I wasn't too familiar with it, so the three of us decided to listen to it yesterday on our way to Church. Wow. If you are going through a rough time, read it. If you're not going through a rough time, read it anyway. This is your homework assignment. This is one of the most powerful talks I have ever heard. He talks about how some of the hardest trials in our lives can be as sacred as the moments we spend in the temple, because they bring us closer to Christ. I can't do it justice. Go read it. You'll be glad you did.
Kathy and Jerry are progressing as well. After her surgery, Kathy has been really tired and hasn't had much time to read. But the last time we paid her a visit, she said her dad was involved in an accident that left his face badly burned. She was so hysterical that the only thing that could calm her down was reading the Book of Mormon. I thought I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon before I came on my mission, but it has grown so much stronger out here. There is no pain that cannot be alleviated by the simple, pure truths taught in the Book of Mormon.  It gave her so much comfort and strength, and helped build her faith that she could be healed from her cancer. Listening to her testimony was incredible. Her husband, Jerry, expressed his desires for the first time to come to Church. Sadly we didn't see them there yesterday and haven't been able to get a hold of them, so we were thinking Kathy got really sick yesterday. Hopefully they're okay; we're keeping them in our prayers! Hopefully next Sunday we'll see them in Church. It's hard asking people to come to a Church that's located 20 miles away. It's a sacrifice, but everyone who makes the trip is richly blessed.
We did see Marty at Church yesterday! He came with his parents, and he really enjoyed it. He is progressing quickly and is excited for his baptism on the 4th. He has a pretty solid testimony already; he believes the Book of Mormon is true, and to deny it would be to turn against God. He's progressing so fast; we're so proud of him!  I hope I get to stay for his baptism!
Well, those are the highlights of the week. This week, overall, was good. Though we have seen hard days, our little trio pulls through. Sister Stone and Sister Mortensen burst into song the other day. To the tune of Dory's "just keep swimming," they started singing, "Just keep praying, just keep praying, just keep praying praying praying, what do we do? We pray . . . *opera voices* I love to prrrraaaaaaay . . ." It was hysterical! I love our trio. Granted, it's hard being a trio, but we still have good times together, and we've overcome a lot together. I love how much my mission has helped me grow. Sister Stone taught me something I will never forget, "There is no growth in your comfort zone, and there is no comfort in your growth zone." My mission has pushed me way outside the boundaries of my comfort zone. I do things every day that just make me uncomfortable. But they help me grow so much, and I'm so grateful for each and every experience. If you stay within your comfort zone, you won't grow. It's so tempting to retreat back into it, but you just can't if you want to progress. The refiner's fire is not meant to be a pleasant experience. We can experience joy along the way, but the most growth will come at the hardest of times, if we let it. Once again I need to refer to you to Elder Holland's talk. It is so good. Please read it; it's worth it.
I guess that's all for now! I love you all dearly and hope everything is well back at home. Thank you all for writing me letters, and I'm sorry if I'm slow on the response. P-days are just as crazy as any other day, and I'm slowly but surely cranking letters out. I haven't forgotten y'all, I promise! I pray for all of you every night and know that God is blessing you.
One more thing before I sign off. Another little homework assignment, I guess you can call it. We have been going to members homes a lot this week to get them excited about missionary work, and I figured it would be effective as well to try to get everyone at home excited about it too. I encourage all of you to pray for a missionary opportunity. Whether you live in Mormonville or not, you are surrounded by opportunities to teach the Gospel. Even if you don't have any nonmember friends, surely you know someone who is less active or someone who needs a Gospel message. If you pray for an opportunity to share the Gospel, God will provide you with that opportunity. And when you find it, take it. Write your testimony in a Book of Mormon and hand it out. Or go visit a less-active. Share your testimony with a stranger. Planting even just the smallest of seeds can produce incredible results; I have seen that on my mission. And I want all y'all to report back to me on your awesome missionary experiences! I would love to use examples from back home when I'm encouraging members to seek for missionary opportunities. So I would love it if all y'all could help me out!
Love you all so much!! I will write again next week with news of transfers and all sorts of fun adventures! Until then, have an excellent week! May God bless all of you.
-Sister Fox