Monday, July 8, 2013

This is Life Eternal

Hello family and friends! 

Remember how in my last email I said I like to tell it how it is? Well, here goes. This week was worse than last week. But that's okay. Because I learned more about myself this week than I ever have before, and self epiphanies make every trip through the refiner's fire something you will always cherish and never regret. So though this week was not that good, it will always be remembered. Everyone hopes that their missions will be both a growing and successful experience. And they are. You are filled with feelings of joy as you see the fruits of your labors, and you are also filled with joy as you grow through trials and times that are perfectly irritating. Though you certainly aren't happy every day of the mission, in your heart there exists a glimmer of joy and peace that comes with the satisfaction that you are serving your Lord and Savior. In the words of Preach My Gospel, the Atonement makes up for everything that is unfair about life. You encounter a lot of things on your mission that seem anything but fair. But that gives you an opportunity to access the enabling powers of Christ's atonement. And that helps you grow more than anything else. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, as long as you have felt the Atonement in your life, it has been a good day.

My intention isn't to have any of you worry about me; I'm fine, and I'm still absolutely in love with Tennessee and my mission as a whole. And a lot of good things still happened this week amidst the not so good things. We saw miracles and tender mercies this week, as we do every week. I'm excited to tell y'all about them! We'll start with Monday.

Monday I played frisbee and basketball with the elders. At the same time. It's really hard to catch and throw a frisbee and weave in and out a game of basketball. But that's what missionaries do when it's raining outside on P-day. It rained every day this week. It's a good thing I like rain! Thank heavens for my rain boots and Fang (that's what I named my umbrella. It's perfectly normal to name your umbrella.)! Anyway. Monday night we were supposed to have a lesson with Xavier and Dustin again. Apparently Xavier went beyond just mormon.org and lds.org in his curiosity and found some rumors that freaked him out. He wouldn't tell us what they were, so we didn't have much to work with or clear up. After talking with him for an hour, we finally had to let him go. He's not ready yet. Dustin wouldn't even join in the lesson. We rescheduled with him and he didn't show up. Think we lost that one. We lost Fred too. And Bianca. Still have a testimony of faith walks though.

Tuesday was kind of funny. We taught Cheryl again, and she is still interested in learning more about the Gospel, so we still have room to work with her. We taught her again about Moroni's promise, and we told her that she needs to learn of the truth for herself. We challenged her to immerse herself in the Book of Mormon to find out if it's true. We left her with another invitation to attend Church. Yesterday she decided to take her husband to the Methodist church. She still wants to try them all. We'll try to get her to convince him to come to ours. If a mission teaches you anything, it's patience! After Cheryl we washed and vacuumed our car for our zone conference the next day. I was feeling particularly irritated Tuesday morning, and I was called to repentance while we were vacuuming out the car. I said a little prayer thanking God that it wasn't raining. Not 5 seconds later it began to downpour. I just started laughing. Sister Paxton and I crammed ourselves in the back seat with our vacuums trying to clean out the car without getting soaking wet. I testify to all of you, God has a sense of humor. And I actually felt better the rest of the day and decided not to be so irritated. And that's when our little miracle occurred!

After cleaning the car we had an appointment with Maryann, a recent convert who also recently went less-active. She was baptized around last November, but a few months later left the church and refused to make contact with anyone. She let us in and we began getting to know her. I felt a really special connection with Maryann, and we began talking about her conversion story and her testimony of the Gospel. She opened up to us and told us that she had come in contact with some deep doctrines of the church that had really troubled her. Being a new convert, it freaked her out. It was a "milk before meat" kind of problem. She asked a particularly troubling question that I had no idea how to answer. Oh Sister Paxton. She never ceases to amaze me. She immediately connected with the Spirit and gave such a profound and meaningful answer, I just sat back and watched her in awe. I chimed in with my testimony, and we were able to help Maryann with her concern. She has such a sweet and tender heart. She loves the Gospel so much, and she wants to come back. She asked us if she could come back to church, and we enthusiastically invited her to come to church with us Sunday! That lesson, my friends, was a breath of fresh spiritual air. She told us that we were heaven sent, and she truly has missed coming to church and feeling that spirit. That meant just as much to me as a baptism. We helped a sister in need keep those special covenants that she made, and she is coming back so strong! We went back twice more this week to teach her the new member lessons, and those were the best Restoration and Plan of Salvation lessons Sister Paxton and I have ever taught. The Spirit is so strong in Maryann's home, and she has a truly inspiring testimony. She came to church with us yesterday! All three hours. And she absolutely loved it. We are fast friends already, and I am incredibly grateful that we could be there for her. And those experiences made this week perfectly worth it.

Maria came to church too! She is doing really well. She considers Sister Paxton and I to be the older sisters she has always wanted but has never had. She's so cute. I love that little girl so much. I'm sending pictures today!

Wednesday we had a really neat Zone Conference. The assistants gave us an inspiring training on how to come to learn, know, live, and love the doctrines of the Gospel. When you truly connect with a doctrine of the gospel and come to love it, you are that much better at teaching it. It's so true. On my mission I have really come to connect with, and love, the Plan of Salvation, and that is my favorite lesson to teach. The Assistants invited us to come to love every principle taught in Chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel, and it has been so fun studying and falling in love with every single doctrine. For those of you who are preparing to serve missions, I encourage you to do just that. Don't just read chapter three of Preach My Gospel, but come to know it and love it. You will be a much better teacher if you come to love every single principle. And it makes studying so much more fun when you ponder about what the principles mean to you in your own life. It's great fun. Y'all should try it!

Thursday was my birthday. It actually was surprisingly entertaining. Sister Paxton and I made a cake with the cake mix mom sent, and put all the candles and decorations on it that Sister Paxton's mom sent. We even sang happy birthday together and I blew out the candles. Sister Paxton took a video. She became my mom for the day; she was so cute! Then I opened presents. Thank you all so so so much! The skirts are adorable! Sadly the striped pink one doesn't fit modestly. Maybe a Medium will? Everything else fits great and looks adorable! I love the jewelry, the watch, and I'm almost half-way through The Continuous Atonement already! And thank you Grandma and Grandpa for the brownies and banana squares! They were so delicious. Sister Paxton can also attest to that! And the elders in our ward even got me a little present! They are so great. I love them so much. They got me flavored bubbles and a box of Mario gummies. They're the best! The rest of the day was pretty much a normal day. We had an appointment with Maryann that was perfectly awesome. And then we tracted in the rain. That was a little less awesome. But we had dinner with the Huangs and it was delicious! Authentic chinese food. We had chow mein, some kind of delicious tofu soup, rice, and beef with broccoli. It was so tasty. It was certainly a different cultural experience; I went over to the kitchen to put my plate in the sink and found a huge bucket of live crabs, just chillin' there. That was normal. No, we did not eat the crabs. After dinner we met up with the elders and zone leaders to watch a couple firework shows. We stood on their little hill and watched them from a distance. In the rain. It was actually great fun! And Sister Paxton and I belted southern gospel music all the way home. I love companions. :)

The rest of the week wasn't really that great. Nobody is returning phone calls or answering the door. Literally, no one. We got a hold of Sylvia, but she is going through a really hard time right now with her divorce and trying to find a place to live, so she doesn't really want to meet with us right now. We've been tracting a lot, but every time we find someone who has potential, they don't show up to our return appointment. We're pretty sure we lost Antoin; he dropped off the face of the planet. We're kind of back to square one in our finding and teaching efforts. We've learned a lot this transfer though, and I'm so grateful for everything I've learned and all the ways that I have grown.

Which brings me to the title. If I could sum everything up I've learned and taught this week, it's John 17:3- "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." This is what has been so precious about my mission. It has given me the opportunity of a lifetime to truly come to know and love my Heavenly Father and my Savior. It is through studying their teachings, emulating their example, communicating with them, and doing their will that we can come to know them and love them. This is what life is all about. Coming to know of the perfect character of our loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. When we come to know them, we come to trust them. This week I learned how to internalize the principle of trusting in God. It's one thing to know intellectually that we can trust in God. We can read about times He has provided for His children in the past, we can put two and two together that He is our perfect Father and will lead and guide us. It's another thing to feel that we can truly trust Him, to make our trust in Him part of who we are as individuals. What makes my mission so precious is that it has helped me internalize the glorious truth that I can place my faith and trust in God. It's not perfect yet, but this is what life is all about; to perfect our faith in God. And internalizing this principle comes from getting to know our Savior. Learning of Him. Following Him. Praying to Him. It comes little by little, but the closer we draw to Him, the more we can trust Him, and the happier we are. I have said it before in a previous email, but I'll say it again. Is coming to know Christ the focus of our lives? Or is it something important we do on the side? How devoted are we to building up the most important relationship we could ever have in this life? Food for thought. :)

Everyone says the mission is the best 18 months to 2 years of their lives, and also the hardest. I never quite understood that, but I understand that now. I have been out 6 months, and it has been the most trying 6 months of my life. But I wouldn't give them up for anything. They have been the best 6 months I've ever lived. 1 Peter 1:7-9 summarizes perfectly my feelings on the subject. Missions are hard, but they are something you will never ever regret. They are more than worth it. And they are definitely something you can and should look forward to with great anticipation.

In summary, family and friends, my area is dead, my mission is hard, but I am happy and well. I am so grateful for all of your letters. Coming home at the end of the day to a letter in the mailbox is one of the most glorious feelings a missionary can have. Thank you so much for your love, your support, and your prayers. They mean everything to me. I pray for all of you as well, and I hope you all can feel the difference I love y'all so much!! Until next week!

-Sister Fox

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