Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Develop a Backbone, not a Wishbone

Family! Friends!

Why, hello there! It's Monday again? Where did this week even go? I do not know the answer to that. But no matter. This week was weird. I don't even know what really happened. We had some good things. And some bad things. Yet every day felt like a joyful journey. That is a tender mercy. I think a big part of why every day feels like a joyful journey is because of my awesome companion. Sister Mortensen truly is awesome. She keeps me laughing, and she is always willing to get out and work, even if we are having bad days. She certainly keeps me going! She's just the best. We're totally getting this unity thing down too! We're finishing each other's thoughts, and saying the exact same thing, at the same time, with the same voice inflection. Once you start sharing brainwaves you know you've got unity down. It's pretty cool.
So, I thought I would start out this email with a joke that I heard at Stake Conference. There were two men, Ben and George, who liked to compete with each other. Everything to them was a competition. One day Ben told George, "Every morning when the sun comes up, I drive around the perimeter of my property, and I don't get home until the sun goes down." George replied, "Every morning when the sun comes up, I start driving around the perimeter of my property, and when the sun goes down, I have only gotten halfway around it." Ben replied, "Yeah, I used to have a truck like that."
Oh! Here's another one! Why did the chicken cross the road?
To show the possum it could be done.
That one I find particularly funny, but maybe you just have to be a missionary in Tennessee.
Speaking of being a missionary in Tennessee, I thought I would share a few thoughts about what my mission is doing to me. Firstly, I have an intense desire to learn to play the banjo. You think I'm kidding. I'm not. I really really want to take banjo lessons. In fact, Sista M and I just went into a music store lined with banjos all around the walls. It kind of reminded me of Stranger Than Fiction, but Tennessee style. It was cool! We took pictures. Maybe I'll send a few. Also, I have developed a taste for bluegrass music. You think I'm kidding. Still not. But you listen to "Man of Constant Sorrows" and tell me that bluegrass can't be super catchy. That song gets stuck in my head all the time! And I'm starting to adore country music. My Nashville C.D. is my favorite one to listen to (Thank you Thomas!). And I get giddy when I see sidewalks. I also never want to own a chihuahua. Ever. And sometimes I get a little nervous while tracting because everyone seems to have baby angel statues in their yard. Everyone. You would be nervous too if you watched Season 4 of Doctor Who before leaving on your mission. So . . . yeah.
I feel like I'm sinking more and more into Southern culture every day down here. I absolutely love it! I just love the people down here. I love everyone with whom I come in contact. That's the wonderful blessing of being a missionary--an increase in your capacity to love. I've only been out in the field for 3 months, but I can say that Tennessee will always be a really big part of who I am. I can't say enough how much I love it here!
Random side note, I watched the CES fireside last night and saw Kevin and Thomas in the choir! I got super excited; I think I might have startled Marlene. I just get super excited about these things. :) It was cool to see you two!
So, my week. This week was a whole lot of tracting. But we had some pretty good experiences! There was one time in particular, Sister Mortensen and I found ourselves at the bottom of a hill as we were tracting. We looked to the left and to the right and found out that whichever way we decided to go, we would have to go uphill. So we went tracting. In the rain. Uphill. Both ways.
But in all seriousness, we did have some neat experiences! Yesterday we had one of those "just one more door" moments. We had been tracting for over an hour and it was time for dinner. Sister Mortensen wanted to knock on just one more door, so we did. We met a really nice woman who had a death in her family just the day before. She got really emotional when we told her we wanted to pray with her. She didn't accept our message, but she was super sweet, and she said the prayer really helped her feel at ease. It's a seed planted, and I felt the assurance that God sent us to her to ease her pain. It was a neat experience. We had a similar experience just a few doors before, when we met a man who had been facing several challenges in his family. He also gratefully accepted a prayer and invited us back. It was cool to see this week how we seemed to find people just at the moment they needed us most. It goes to show that God answers prayers, and He knows exactly what we need exactly when we need it. From tracting we were able to find 4 new investigators this week, and we're excited to start working with them!
It's just amazing to see, in only three months, how much my mission has changed me already. I feel like a completely new person. Back home I was so shy and was anything but bold when it came to talking to strangers. Now God has granted me the confidence I have needed to approach perfectly random strangers and testify of the Gospel. I've noticed that sometimes, in the moment, we can't tell how much we have progressed. There were a few days this week when I looked at myself and thought, "You're not bold enough. You need to try harder, you're not growing at all." But then I looked back and saw just how far I came. It's like climbing a mountain. Sometimes you can only see the trail ahead, and it's steep and slow, but once your view clears and you look back, you can see just how far you've come. Sometimes we need to be more patient with ourselves and our growth. Dramatic changes don't happen overnight, it takes just one step at a time.
Anyway, here is an update on the work in the Pleasant Ridge North area! Like I said at the beginning of the email, we had some good things and some not so good things. This week was potentially discouraging, due to ignored phone calls, dropped appointments, and rejections. But I realized that's normal. I truly began to understand diligence this week. When we are diligent, we may face disappointments, but we're not disappointed in ourselves. So even though we experienced disappointments with trying to visit countless investigators and less-actives, I wasn't disappointed in myself. And that helped me find joy in the journey.
There are a lot of people I wish I could give updates for. All y'all are probably just as curious as I am to see how certain individuals are progressing, but we haven't been able to get a hold of just about anyone: Crystal, Rhonda, Casey, Brandon, Brittany, the list goes on. Sometimes people just drop off the face of the planet, or they're just not ready to meet with you yet. What keeps me going is the knowledge that God loves them even more than I do, and they are in good hands.
So, now for the good news! Good news is, we got to teach Kathy and Jerry a ton this week! Kathy seems to be recovering from her surgery, though we still haven't received an update on the stage of her cancer. She is really progressing in the Gospel; we finally re-committed her for baptism May 18th! We're still working with Jerry. He knows it's true, he just struggles with the idea of getting baptized again. He doesn't quite believe he needs to. And though we've explained priesthood power several times and in several different ways, we think he just needs to develop his own testimony of it at this point. It will take some time, but he is progressing. Kathy is such a sweetheart. She made the best barbecue ribs for us that I have ever had, and we sat out on her patio and talked about the Gospel. She said something that was really touching to me. She said how attached she was to the elders, but now she has grown attached to us, and she said, "See, and now you don't even miss your families because you have us!" Now of course I miss my family, but it is through people like Kathy that I feel the love and comfort that I felt at home. Homesickness doesn't bother me because I have developed deep and loving friendships with the people here in Tennessee. I just love Kathy to pieces, and we are so excited to see her progress toward baptism!
Guess what else?? The Church is true and God answers prayers! Guess what happened yesterday? There's only one minute left in my brain. Time is running out! Guess . . . guess! (Sorry, Kid History withdrawals) Caitlyn came to church!! Her boss gave her Sunday morning off!!! HOORAH FOR ISRAEL! This girl is so golden. You don't understand. She is so ready for baptism; we went through all the interview questions with her, and she is so ready. She just needs to come to Church twice. She thought she would have to work 10 to 7 Sunday, but she didn't have to work until 3!! So she came to Church!! And loved it! Sister Mortensen and I did another little victory dance. She just needs to come one more time and she can finally be baptized!! Hopefully her schedule will allow her to come to Church every Sunday! Yay!
Marty had his interview this week and is ready for his baptism as well! Except they want to push it back to the 18th because they have family that will be in town that weekend. Oh well. If missionary work teaches you anything, it teaches you patience! Travis will probably be baptized the same day as Marty, and we're excited for both of them! We're still working on Sheila. Sadly we didn't get to see her at all this week, but we're still praying for her!
That's pretty much all the updates I have on the Clinton area. The work is slowing down a bit, but I still love it out here! I know my first transfer was pretty rare with all the success we saw, and now it's getting back to normal, but that doesn't mean I'm not still having fun!
I suppose I will share a few thoughts from Stake Conference before I close this letter. Because if I don't explain the title it would be confusing. The main theme of this Stake Conference was "rescuing the rising generation." There was one talk in particular that really stood out to me. He talked about how the rising generation is in danger of feeling entitled to the world and everything the world has to offer. The thing that stood out to me most was when he said, "develop a backbone, not a wishbone." Too often people tend to sit back in the shade and start wishing their circumstances were different without the intent to do anything about it. The world cannot be handed to us on a silver platter, we have to get up and work for what we want. I felt that ring true to me just this week. It's certainly typical of a missionary to wish for success, though sometimes we fall into the lazy trap and hope for investigators to fall into our laps. But we have to work for them! We have to get out there and find them. Sometimes that means knocking on doors for several hours every day. But God will reward our efforts. God blesses us according to our faith, heed, and diligence. The same principle rings true to life. We have to do our best, and leave the rest to God. But change won't happen until we get up and work for it.
Another thing that really hit me was when he talked about the importance of forgetting ourselves and focusing on others. He said that most of the problems involving low self-esteem and depression in teenagers can be resolved by serving others. He said this was by divine design. That hit me; I had never thought about that before. It's so true though. When we turn outward instead of inward, we are so much happier. Surely God made things that way on purpose? I can bear testimony to the fact that you feel much more confident about yourself when you serve the people around you. Confidence in yourself comes from confidence in Christ, and confidence in Christ is manifested by how much you emulate His love. Self-esteem/confidence = Charity. Food for thought!
Well, that's it for this week! I hope everyone is doing well back home. Thank you so much for your letters, your prayers, and your support. I just love you all so much! You're all the best! I attribute the missionary I am to all of you and everything you have all done for me. Talk to y'all on Mothers' Day! Love yeuns! (Yes I just used that word. Get over it.)
-Sister Fox

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