Monday, December 30, 2013

Merry Christmas! Wait.Was that Last Week's Title?

Hello friends, family, and all my favorite people!

Christmas is over and the new year is about to begin! I cannot believe it is 2014 already! I also cannot believe that I spent all of 2013 in the mission field (save a few weeks)! Time flies really fast. Silly time. Its name is silly time. This week was absolutely fantastic! Because it was Christmas! And nothing is more fantastic than spending the Christmas holidays serving the One whose birth we are celebrating. I'm excited for this email!

I'll start with Monday, because I always do. Unless I have funny quotes. Which I don't this week. I guess we weren't funny. Just kidding. We're always funny.

Monday night we celebrated Joseph Smith's birthday! Ok. Best tradition ever! The Barrotts (they were the family who let us Skype at their house) invited us over Monday night to their Joseph Smith celebration! They celebrate his birthday every year and I think it is the neatest tradition ever! We watched the Restoration, bore our testimonies about Joseph Smith, and Sister Schwab and I played our Praise to the Man/Poor Wayfaring flute/piano duet, which is absolutely lovely. We even sang him happy birthday and had cake! Loved it. So great for kids and a great way to remember Joseph Smith and his divine calling. We also did the nativity that same night! The Barrotts have a ton of grandkids, so it was fun having them dress up in costumes and act everything out. They even had people dress up like Nephites and act out the scenes that occurred in the Americas. It was so fun! We also had a gift exchange! Guess what we got to take home? A pancake griddle!! It was one of those gift exchanges where you can steal the gifts you want. We went for the knives and the pancake griddle. Someone took our knives. :( But we kept the griddle! Pancake breakfast time!!

Speaking of knives, I feel bad about the way I explained downtown Chattanooga. It's really not that bad. I wouldn't think it any worse than downtown Salt Lake City. Some areas are a little sketchy, but overall it's pretty safe. The sisters there are in really good hands and they live in the same block as the LDS church. Everyone who has ever served there said it's their favorite area, and nothing has ever really happened there (except that dog bite a couple weeks ago). But rest assured, chances of me going there are very slim if I'm going to stay an STL the remainder of my mission. I'm not even going there on exchanges this transfer, so it should be fine. :) We live about 30 minutes away, and Soddy Daisy is the most welcoming Southern neighborhood I've seen thus far. So I'm safe! I promise. :)

Monday night we found a new investigator! We went and caroled to a part-member family and they referred us to their friends down the street. There we met Casey, a young single mother who is looking for a church. She loved our caroling! She said nobody carols anymore. We've gotten that response a lot. Everyone loves carolers and feels sad that nobody does it anymore! Rest assured, Sister Schwab and I are keeping that tradition alive!! Who knows? Maybe we'll carol together next Christmas as well! Anyway. Casey invited us back for Christmas Eve because she wanted us to carol to her mother, which we did. She accepted a Book of Mormon and wants to learn more! Woohoo!! I love Christmas!!!

Tuesday was kind of hilarious. It was such a good Christmas Eve! We went caroling in the morning and had dinner with the Isaacsons. Like I told y'all over Skype, they fed us steak. And I was a very happy Fox. :) It was delicious! And they made us these fried peach pie thingies that were perfectly delicious! I love that family. We got to help them wrap presents after their kids went to bed and it was a blast! It's funny how you miss those simple little traditions like wrapping presents. We seriously had tons of fun. Tuesday we also saw an investigator the Red Bank elders are seeing; her name is Mama Duke. She has a dog that can . . sense . . . energy? Or lack thereof? Whatever his talents, he successfully diagnosed my back pain. It was weird. I sat down and this german shepherd just lunges in my direction and pushes his nose against my lower back like 3 or 4 times. Mama Duke asked me if I had a fall or lower back injury recently. I haven't been injured, but I've always had back pain, especially from all the sitting and carrying bags around. She said she could sense a significant lack of energy around my lower back. It was. Really weird. But um. Anyone have any ideas or exercises to strengthen your lower back area? She suggested electricity. Not happening.

WednesdayWednesday was the best day of the year! WoohoO! I love Christmas. It's my favorite holiday. And my favorite one to spend in the mission field; it was a blast! In the morning we had breakfast with Sister Adamz, who is the fastest cook on this planet. I mentioned in passing that we have a tradition of making crepes, and before I knew it, she had whipped out a plateful of crepes, biscuits, bacon, and scrambled eggs. It was to die for!! They are the sweetest family; I love the Adamz family! *Snap snap* Hehe.
After the Adamz we went home to open presents! And it was so fun! Thank you for all the stuff! So. I have this huge photo album that I need to fill. So this is the time for all y'all to embrace your inner vanity and send me all your favorite pictures of yourselves. See to it. Please and thank you! :) The shirts have been an excellent addition to my wardrobe, the cliff bars have kept me happy every single day, I love The Inevitable Apostasy, and I love everything else! Except the Insanity DVD doesn't work in this player. I don't know if the player is faulty or the dvd. Other dvds tend to work in it, so I'm guessing it's the dvd. So I'mma send it home. But no worries; we'll keep using Sister Schwab's until we get a replacement.

I also got a crucifix. Which kind of took me by surprise. When I went on exchanges with Athens we taught a man named David, and he was shopping the other day and saw these little golden crucifixes. And he thought of the sister missionaries. So he bought one for their whole trio, and remembered me, so he bought me one too! It was such a nice gesture of him. President Irion is the one who delivered it. I'll just keep it among my other items of sentimental value. After presents we caroled, had a Christmas lunch with a part-member family, and then we Skyped our families! It was so fun talking with y'all! It's crazy how much everyone has grown in just 7 months since we last Skyped. That was the best ever! Definitely the highlight of the season!
After Skyping we played Balderdash with the Barrotts and ate more junk food. I learned that I'm really bad at Balderdash. That night we called all the sisters to check up on them and make sure they weren't too homesick, and then we made one last stop at our neighbor's. Her name is Dreema, and I had never actually met her before. She had been going through a really rough time this Christmas and said that our visit was divine intervention. We gave her a Book of Mormon and she got really excited about it! She was so touched that we let her keep it. I'm so excited for her to read it! It's hard to catch her at home, but I hope we can start working with her soon!

Thursday! We tried to contact a couple referrals we had received earlier in the week. We are really rusty on our door approach because neither of us have been tracting for months, and we have been doing nothing but caroling to strangers. So . . we took the caroling approach! The conversation went something like this:
Missionaries: HI!!! We're . . .
Cranky Man: No. We're not gonna go there . . .
Missionaries: Oh no, we just wanted to sing a Christmas carol!!!
Cranky Man. No! *Wham*

That is when I learned that the caroling magic dies when Christmas is over. Sister Schwab and I sang "Where are you Christmas" as we walked back to our car. Now that caroling lost it's magic we're not quite sure what to do with ourselves.

We did try a basketball approach. We saw a family playing basketball together, so from about 30 feet away Sister Schwab shouted, "WHAT WILL YOU GIVE ME IF I CAN MAKE A BASKET FROM HERE???" And with that we started playing basketball with them and got a new investigator. I need to pick up a few tips from her.

However!! Saturday we did have a little caroling miracle! So the magic isn't completely gone!! We contacted a member referral and sang a carol on his doorstep. At first he wasn't interested in anything else. But then his social 4-year-old granddaughter started nailing us with questions at the doorstep. It was cold and rainy so he finally invited us in. That's when we started talking about Christianity and the importance of family and family history. He was pretty interested in looking up his ancestors! And he wanted to learn more about modern prophets! Woohoo! So we're going backSaturday!! Christmas miracles live on!!!

Yesterday was good too! We had good Sunday meetings and then we had dinner at the Isaacsons again. We did their home and visiting teaching with them, and then we helped their little son fix his railroad track. I remember Jason had one of those so I started trying to connect this one with it's elaborate tunnels, bridges, and curves. Those things take some serious brainpower! It was quite the accomplishment when we finished it. Victory!

And that was my week. All that jazz coupled with my very enlightening personal studies on the power of hope just made this week perfectly fantastic. I've studied a lot about hope lately. At first I didn't know why it was a theme that kept popping up in my studies, but I've come to learn through experience how beautiful the doctrine of hope is, just how much I need it, and just how much the people I serve need it. A favorite topic that people here (and probably everywhere) like to discuss is how the world is going to pot, and the government is collapsing, and bad things everywhere are happening to good people. But no matter the extent of truth that exists in those statements (I won't be the judge of that), what will help is not embracing our anxieties and fears of an unstable future, but to anchor ourselves to the hope of Jesus Christ and His greatest victory over sin and death. A photographer uses a tripod to allow a camera to stand on any rough and uneven surface. The principles of faith, hope, and charity are the three stands that will allow us to stand strong through any rough and uneven surfaces in our lives. Our hope is what anchors us (Ether 12:4) in a world of sorrow. And what is it that we hope for? Moroni 7 gives the answer: our greatest hope is in Jesus Christ and His resurrection. *Because He lives, we have no reason to fear and every reason to hope. Bad things will happen, but they will not last. Because in the end, it is in His hands. He is watching, and we cannot even comprehend the glory which lies in store for them that love Him (1 Cor 2:9). In the end, the adversary loses. Christ's victory is already won. So as we anchor ourselves in the hope of Jesus Christ and press forward with a determination to serve Him to the end, all things will turn out for our good and we will be crowned with the glory that awaits the faithful. I love this message. I love sharing hope with those who have lost it. I wish I had the words and eloquence to describe the impact that the message of hope had in my life this week. But this will suffice for now. I know this Gospel is true, and it's fruits are most precious above all.

I love all of you so much! Thank you all for your letters, prayers, packages, support, and love. I feel so blessed to have so many incredible people praying for me back home. Those prayers are answered in a myriad of ways. This week we had a lot of prayers answered as people just kept delivering food to our place. No one knew we were out of money (Never getting hair trimmed without asking for the price ever again) and yet everyone kept bringing by boxes of food. Others brought gifts, some words of encouragement. Prayers are answered every day, and I know that my prayers are being answered on y'alls behalf as well. The church is true! The book is blue! Join it!! :)

Love y'all so much! Until next week!

-Sister Fox

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas!

10 year old: So . . . your last name is Fox? That must mean . . . do you like the Youtube video, "what does the Fox say?"

20 year old: Your last name is Fox? . . . . "What does the FOX say??"

Elder Houghton: What do you think, Sister Fox? . . . What does the Fox say?

Cell phone in Ward Council: "What does the FOX say??"

40 year old: Your last name is Fox? My kids would love that. They love the video "What does the Fox say?"

4 year old: What's your name?
Me: Sister Fox!
Sister Schwab: What does the Fox say?
4 year old: . . .ring ding ding ding ding ding

40 year old: Your last name is Fox? "What does the FOX say??" . . . Do you get that a lot?

Yes. Yes I do.

Hello Family and Friends!! Merry Christmas!! It is the most wonderful time of the year! And this was such a good week! I'm so excited to talk about it! This is gonna be fun!

Monday- President Irion approved "Ephraim's Rescue" so we watched it together as a district. Overall, I found it to be a very touching movie. You do have to muscle past some cheesy acting at the beginning. And just to put a little more realistic spin on one of the scenes, confounding a preacher is NOT that easy. Just speaking from experience. ;) And did anyone notice that they play the Life and Death theme from Lost in the background? They totally do. I would recognize that piece of music anywhere. Anyway. I wasn't too fond of the first half but the second half was really really good. So good movie overall. That is my critique. I should write for a newspaper.

Tuesday- Um. . . I don't remember. I do remember having a church tour that people were supposed to come to but nobody showed up. We had a great lesson together as a ward council though. And we got cookies! So . . . bonus. Then Sister Schwab and I exchanged with the sisters in South Pittsburg. Funny story. I went on exchanges with Sister DeHoyos up in Kingsport last transfer, so I was supposed to get her companion. Due to miscommunication, Sister DeHoyos was the one who ended up packing her bags and coming up to Hixson. I didn't tell her though. Didn't want to embarass her. So we did exchanges with the wrong companions! It was really funny! But it must have been for a reason. I really love Sister DeHoyos, she is an amazing missionary! She is an incredible teacher; it was fun learning from her style. We had a little miracle doing . . . Christmas caroling!! I know, right?? We were trying to find a less-active member and we found a really beat-up driveway in the middle of the woods filled with holes. Impossible for a car to drive up. We couldn't see the house at the top. But I had the feeling we should brave the driveway. So we parked the car and hiked up that beaten-down Tennessean driveway to find Sister Marceaux, a convert to the church who absolutely loves missionaries! We sang to her and she loved it. She loves the church and has a really strong testimony. Her husband is very much Baptist and is not interested in the church at all, and she has no means to get to church. But she gets the sacrament every week and people take notes for her every Sunday. I love how faithful she is. She showed us a little tree she planted several years ago on the day of her baptism. It is completely shrouded by other trees, and yet it is growing abnormally fast for the amount of light and nourishment it receives. She said the tree is a symbol of her faith. Though shrouded by roadblocks in her life, her faith continues to grow uninterrupted. It was so touching to hear her testimony. What an incredibly faithful saint! She wants to have us over to teach her husband sometime. One day his heart will be softened, I know it!

Thursday was zone meeting! It was the best zone meeting ever! I say that about every zone meeting. Probably because it keeps getting better and better! Woohoo!! This one was focused on Chapter 9 of Preach My Gospel: Finding. We talked about OYMing (Open Your Mouth, basically means you should talk to everyone you see and not be afraid to do it). That is something I need to work on. We've been getting better, though! That's how we found Tori! She was walking her dog. OYMing leads to miracles. We also talked about finding through Family history, which is something the missionaries in this mission never really do. That has yielded some pretty good results too; we used that finding tool just a couple days ago. Everybody may not be interested in the church, but mostly everyone is interested in discovering their roots. We also received a training on developing the faith to find; that one came from the assistants. In between each training there were little skits by the zone leaders. They were super corny but also quite funny; they illustrated all the different finding techniques in scenarios involving the Grinch. Yeup. They eventually baptized him because they got him interested in Family history. Turns out he's related to Esau. ;)

Then we gave a training!! It was my first training my whole mission! I have been wanting to give a training at Zone Meeting since day 1. And when I became a Sister Training Leader I was excited because I thought they would have us train a ton. Not so. But! Sister Schwab and I finally got to give a training at this one! And it felt so good! We trained on the importance of working with members. We talked about the best way to get members excited about missionary work is to teach them the purpose of the Gospel. Going back to Elder Corbridge, the reason missionaries are out teaching the gospel in the first place is to bring souls to Christ by helping them access the Atonement through the ordinances of the restored Gospel. This is something we need to teach members too. If everyone truly understood the blessings of eternal life and the reality of the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation, we would all be tirelessly teaching the Gospel to our friends. That was the core of the training we gave. We had an awesome object lesson at the beginning that I don't have enough time to write about, that's something we can cover on Wednesday. I felt really good about it! And we even got positive feedback from the zone leaders! Disclaimer: I love them. Bless their hearts. But it's really difficult to get positive feedback from them. So it was extra validating when they said they really liked it! Points!!!

Then we had the Christmas party and interviews! I hadn't been interviewed by President since June, so it was really fun to talk to him again. I love interviews with him. We talked a lot about my companionship with Sister Schwab and the blessing it has been in my life and in the lives of the sisters we serve. I seriously feel so blessed to be Sister Schwab's companion. She and I are definitely going to be lifelong friends!
The Christmas party was fun! We did our skit (How the Grinch Stole Christmas--Missionary style!) Sister Schwab was Sister Lou Who. Guess who I was? Max the dog. But. . . Max the Fox. Sister Fox the Fox. I don't know what I was. I just hauled the Grinch around the stage while he stole all the Missionaries' supplies. It was pretty clever if I do say so myself, and I can say that because a sister in our district wrote it. I'll send y'all the script sometime!

Thank you so much for your packages!! Merry Christmas to me!! Y'all are the best. Mom, was it you who sent the month supply of Cliff Bars?? Because that just made my heart leap for joy!! We put all our presents under our little tree and it looks pretty good! We're so excited to go at them on Wednesday! Woohoo!!

Friday we did power-ups with Dayton and Chatt Branch. Sister Schwab went to Chatt Branch and I went to Dayton. I think I prefer Dayton, as much as I love downtown Chattanooga. I'm not much of a city person. It was fun! That was the last exchange/power up of the transfer! So now we get two whole weeks to ourselves in our own area! Woohoo! Merry Christmas to us!!

Saturday we had 3 dinner appointments. That's right. 3. Remember when I said that I would never double-book dinner again? I failed miserably and triple-booked. But didn't have the heart to cancel on anyone. So I fed myself lunch and then we get a call from Tori asking us if we were available to go to early dinner. So we went to Chilis with her and taught her the Word of Wisdom. She accepted it without hesitation! I just love her! She is so humble and willing to do what God wants her to do. Such a good lesson! And we had a little tender mercy; someone paid for our meal! We didn't run into any members while we were there or anything, so I was really surprised that someone reached out and paid for it. I just love the South! People are so nice and Christlike here. So many strong Christian people. I love it!
After Chilis we went straight to dinner appointment #2 with a family in the ward. They made us pot roast, mashed potatoes, and homemade pecan cake. That was so incredibly delicious. He kept telling me to eat more. I told him I couldn't but I tried my best! For just eating at Chilis I felt like eating as much as I did was quite the feat. It was delicious!
After that we went to dinner appiontment #3 and I was just about fit to burst. We had a huge Christmas dinner--homemade rolls, casserole, salad, and pumpkin pie. I was surprised that I didn't explode. I am never booking 3 dinners back to back ever again. But all three were perfectly delicious! And after #3 we gathered around the piano and sang Christmas hymns. That is my favorite tradition! And we get to do it again tonight! I am way excited! I love Christmas!! Can't ya tell??

Yesterday started out kind of sad, but it turned into a tender mercy. Tori didn't make it to church again so we are going to have to push her date. It ended up being kind of good though; I can explain why on Wednesday. After Church we did our weekly planning because we virtually had no time the rest of the week, and then we went out and caroled. We met some incredible families last night! Holy cow! I love the South! We caroled to a less-active's house and walked away with handfuls of chocolate. Then we caroled to their neighbors and walked away with homemade chocolate chip cookies. Then we caroled to another less active's and walked away with biscuits. The South would be the death of me if Sister Schwab didn't own the Insanity DVDs. I just love people here! And we got a new investigator! We caroled to a part-member family and their son told us to go see his best friend. At first we couldn't find the house and it was getting late. But we had the feeling we should keep trying. So we finally found it and knocked on the door. His friend wasn't home, but the mom was. We caroled to her and she was so excited to have carolers at her house! Several times that night people told us that nobody carols anymore. We're keeping it alive!! I asked her if she went to church anywhere and she said that their family is actually looking for one. They invited us back! Woohoo!!! The Church is true!

And this is starting to get particularly long and time is running short. I love you all so much and I'm excited to talk to you on Wednesday! I hope you know that I love this Gospel. I love bringing souls to Christ. No work is greater or of more importance than this. The Lord truly is preparing the minds and hearts of His children and is hastening His work. We see that every single day. Around every corner is a hungry soul waiting for the Gospel. We just need to recognize them once we see them and have the courage to share it. I know that this church is true and that it will continue to fill the earth. Lives will be blessed as we reach out in love and share the gospel with friends and family. As we seek to build up the lives of others, whether they be members, non-members, or less actives, we will bless thousands of lives. This Gospel is a message of hope and happiness to the world. Let's go out and share it!!

Love you all so much! Talk to ya on Wednesday!

-Sister Fox

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Miracles!

Hey y'all!

What's up? This is Sister Fox!! Do you know what I've discovered over this past week? I've developed this random talent for whistling. I don't even know where it came from! I could never whistle in the past, and now all of a sudden I find myself whistling hymns with Sister Schwab. We even harmonize them! It's pretty cool. Yay for random talents!

So I have a couple quotes this week that I thought were pretty funny. Here it goes:

Sister Schwab: Is this even a Christmas song???
Me: . . . It's O Holy Night.

Note to self: Next time Sister Schwab accidentally takes Benadryll in the morning, don't offer her a whole caffeine pill to counter the effects. For the record I did offer to cut it in half. She wanted a whole one. I forgot to mention I only take it in fourths.

Anonymous Elder: Her name is Brinisha.
Me: Brinisha? Cool name! Does she go by Bri? 'Cuz that would be awesome!! I think Bri is one of the cutest nicknames a person could have, wouldn't you agree??
Elder: (Completely serious) Uh. . . no! All girls who go by Bri are the spawn of Satan!
Me: . . . Elder. That's my first name.
Elder: . . . Oh. All girls . . . except you.

Observation: Not knowing your fellow missionaries by their first names can get you into very awkward situations.

This week was so much better than last week! We saw a lot of miracles and tender mercies this week. I believe it's because of the Christmas season. I wish this season lasted 2 months instead of just one!! I love being a missionary around Christmastime. It really is the best! Here are some things we experienced this week:

Tuesday morning was really stressful because we were desperately trying to figure out rides for exchanges. We exchanged with Athens this week, and they are located almost 2 hours away. So we had to find a time that would fit in both of our schedules to meet up, a place to meet up halfway (which was difficult because I don't know Chattanooga very well), and a time that would fit into our members' schedules because we didn't have the miles to drive ourselves. So, kind of stressful. But! Christmas miracle. We figured it out. And it was a good exchange! I stayed the night in Athens with two of those sisters; they are in a trio. We had an awesome teaching appointment with a new investigator, David. He is really solid! He's agnostic, but his mind and heart are wide open to learning more. We taught him the Restoration and it was one of the best Restoration lessons I've had in a long time. We taught the Restoration 3 times this week! That felt so flipping good. After Elder Corbridge changed my teaching style I haven't had much opportunity to put it into practice. We had a ton of teaching opportunities this week and they were so good! Good lesson. The Athens sisters are solid teachers as well. It was awesome!

Wednesday morning we provided service to a few members and their non-member friends. It was a lot of fun! We were wrapping scarves for their coworkers. They even let us keep one! I got a white one with a brown "F" on it. It made me really excited. I have a thing for scarves. And pens. Missionaries start obsessing over the strangest things. Wednesday night we had another little Christmas miracle! At least it was in my book. I went on splits for the first time in my entire mission. Which is funny because I have been in a trio for over half my mission and we never once split up because there was never too much work to be done in a single area. Sister Schwab went to visit less-actives with the Relief Society president and I went with Sister McAbee to visit some more less actives. We found a less-active sister that neither of us knew; her name is Melissa. She was so excited to see us! She adores missionaries. She was a convert to the church about 25 years ago, but her work schedule and her crazy life has kept her from coming. But she still loves the church and has a really strong testimony. I really enjoyed that experience. It was cool to find someone who still loved the Church, and right now she needs help more than ever. It was no coincidence we found her! Awesome lesson. Awesome times. Missionary work is awesome.

Thursday was another really awesome day! It started out a little rough for Sister Schwab because she took Benadryll for an allergic reaction she had to nuts. She thought she was taking another kind of allergy medication. She got so drowsy she couldn't stay awake so I offered a caffeine pill. Almost the entire day she was feeling really kind of strange, but it was slightly funny. We had a really good District meeting and then put together our skit for Zone Meeting this Thursday. We're excited for it! It's really clever. I'll have to send a copy of the script sometime. Around dinner time the medicine wore off so Sister Schwab and I went out caroling. Oh my heavens. Best. Door approach. Ever. A lot of people in the South will still turn down a prayer, but we haven't had anyone turn down a Christmas carol. We have seen so many miracles from simply caroling. Music has a way of softening hearts. We drove to a less-active's house and offered to sing them a carol. The wife is Mormon, but the husband is not. They let us inside and we sang to them, made casual conversation, and simply told them how much we loved them. They weren't interested in us coming back and sharing more, but they appreciated our visit. Once we got to the car Sister Schwab turned to me and said, "I didn't want to tell you this before we saw them, but her husband is completely anti-Mormon and no one from the church has gotten into their house before." I was blown away. He didn't seem that happy to see us, but he was happy to invite us in and we had a pretty good conversation about faith after we sang. Hopefully now his heart has been a little more softened toward our faith. Yeah. Christmas Miracle.

That night we had another Christmas miracle while we were caroling! We caroled into another less-active's house, and Sister Schwab had absolutely no idea why they had left the church. We sang them a carol and then their daughter offered to sing us a song. Turns out she is a professional singer! It was gorgeous. After that they totally opened up to us and told us why they haven't been back to church in so many years. Just like that! We didn't even have to ask. They invited us back for next week! Hymns really do have a way of softening people's hearts!

And Friday we had another Christmas miracle!! From what you may ask? Caroling!! We went to see a potential investigator, Alice. Last time we saw her she wasn't that excited to see us and told us to come back some other time. This time we told her we were out caroling and wanted to sing a hymn. She seemed a little taken aback but let us sing. She was deeply touched that we came by to sing to her. She even called her sister on the phone and had us sing to her sister over the phone because she liked it so much. Then she started giving us requests of what songs to sing. She opened up to us about her family and what she's going through and told us she really appreciates what we do. We talked about the Gospel and offered her a Book of Mormon. She took it!!! It's a Christmas miracle!! Sister Schwab and Sister Crapo had offered her a Book of Mormon before and she wouldn't take it. She didn't want "things like that" inside her house. But this time she said she trusted us and she wanted to learn more about it!! It was amazing! And she apologized for shooing us away the last time we had seen her. And invited us by again for hot chocolate. Family and friends, caroling is the key to people's hearts.

Saturday was the biggest miracle of all. It was completely and perfectly miraculous. I wish I could describe it in detail, but that's too hard a feat. I'll try though. I talked about Tori in my last email. We have tried so hard to teach her the Restoration. There are always way too many distractions with her little kids running around. We saw her at 3:00 on Saturday and she said if we came back at 5:00 she would put the kids down for a nap so we could talk about the Church. We came back with a member at 5:00, and sure enough, her kids were asleep! We finally taught her the Restoration from start to finish. And it was the most incredible Restoration lesson I have ever taught, and one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had on my mission. As we testified of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, we invited her to read and pray to receive her own witness that this church is true. She said she already received her answer. She accepted a baptismal date for January 4th! After that we had her say a prayer and it was the most beautiful prayer I have ever been blessed enough to hear. There was not a single dry eye in the room. I wish I could explain further how incredible that experience was, but that's someting I want to save for Skype. Don't let me forget to go into more detail. It was perfectly miraculous.

Sunday we got a little scare when Tori said she had been in the hospital all night. She and her family wouldn't be able to make it to church that day, but we went by to see her Sunday night and she was doing a lot better. She has a lot of problems with her health. Next week we are hoping and praying and crossing our fingers that she and her whole family will make it to church, because she, her husband, and her two little boys really really want to come. She's in our prayers!!
Sunday was so fun! They needed someone to play the piano in primary, so I was able to do singing time with them! And it was so fun. There's nothing like being in a room with a ton of adorable children and singing primary Christmas songs with them. It was a blast! And Sunday afternoon we had another Christmas miracle!! A few weeks ago, before I got here, a woman named Kim and her daughter Raven came on a church tour and really enjoyed it. Since then we've been trying to set up a time when we could come by and teach the lessons. At first they were a bit hesitant, but a member finally convinced them to take the discussions!! So yesterday we had our first teaching appointment with them! It was so good. The Spirit was really strong. We taught the Restoration again. It's incredible that, even though I've taught the Restoration dozens and dozens of times, I teach it differently every time. The Spirit tailors every lesson to the needs of the investigator. After each lesson it's hard to remember what we even say. I do remember that the Spirit was strong and the lesson was incredible. Kim, Raven, and Raven's sister (sadly I didn't get her name) said they would be baptized! Don't have a date yet, but we'll get them with one! They want to be sure they receive a witness before they commit to a date. We promised them they would receive one as they read and pray about the Book of Mormon. Oh it was so good!! I love teaching the Restoration. I love teaching period. I love Christmas. I love being a missionary!!!

So this email is a bit shorter but that's really all I have time for. I just want to leave you all with my testimony that I know that this is the Lord's true church. I know the Priesthood authority has been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that he was and is a true, living prophet of God. I know President Thomas S. Monson is God's mouthpiece on the earth today, and as we heed his direction, we will be blessed with protection and safety in this world of chaos. I know that God lives. He loves us. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. Through Him we can find more happiness and peace than by any other source. Let us remember Him this Christmas season and reflect on the incredible blessings He has given us. This is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I love you all so much! Have a very Merry Christmas!!! Only a week and a half to go!!! Woohoo!!


-Sister Fox

Monday, December 9, 2013

Message of Hope

Hey y'all!

Greetings from Chattanooga! The field is white already to harvest! But it is not physically white because it doesn't snow here. No complaints. Apparently it's snowing up in Kingsport. Escaped that at the perfect time! I'm just tired of snow. I'm sure I'll miss it eventually, but now I'm really enjoying the rain. It is my favorite weather ya know!

Christmas is coming! I can't believe it's only 2 weeks away! I love this time of year! It's kind of sad that I only get one Christmas as a missionary. Proselyting during the holiday season is fantastic! There's just a certain spirit of love in the air that can get you into homes that would otherwise be closed to you. I'm excited to see miracles happen this December!

Speaking of Christmas, some of y'all are probably wondering what to get missionaries for Christmas. What I really want is a baptism, but we'll see how that one goes. Well I was looking through my cupboards today and saw an empty box of cliff bars. And I thought to myself, "Nothing spells Christmas joy for Sister Fox than a boat load of cliff bars." Because when I think to myself I think in 3rd person. Disclaimer: None of you should feel obligated to get me anything. But if you were already brainstorming, cliff bars would be the road less traveled that more people should travel by in my humble opinion. ;) Anyway. Moving on.

It was another good week; we saw several good things happen. Monday we drove up to Cleveland to get the Elders some new bikes because their old ones are falling apart. I always feel bad for the elders who have to bike in this cold weather. They spoil the sisters with cars. I am certainly grateful to have a car! Elder Houghton got a very nice bicycle that has been sitting in our apartment for the last 7 days. I'm sure he'll put it to use pretty soon . . .
After that we went to Chilis with the Cleveland missionaries, and I ran into two missionaries I went to the MTC with. It was really fun reminiscing with them! We had some good times in the MTC. Can't believe that was almost a year ago. Good grief. Anyway, that's just about as exciting as Monday gets.

Tuesday we had MLC! I love MLC! It's like Christmas once a month! This one was particularly good. We met in the Relief Society room of the church building instead of in the gym, and it made it much easier to counsel together. We have a huge MLC now, with 6 sets of Sister Training Leaders and 9 sets of Zone Leaders. They're all fantastic though! And I got to see Sister Day! I haven't really seen her my whole mission! That was way fun. We did a lot of catching up before the meeting. The meeting was one of the best I've been to thus far. We talked about finding ideas for the holidays, the difference between ministering and administering, and how to cultivate a vision to baptize in the missionaries as individuals. I love some of the ideas I heard from other members of the council. One zone leader in my group talked about what changed his mission was doing a serious study on eternal life. Once we understand what God has in store for the faithful, we have the vision and drive we need to accomplish His work. I decided to do the same thing. This past week I've been reading up on eternal life, what it means and what it will be like. As mortals we cannot comprehend the glory that lies on store for us, or the happiness that await those who access the Atonement through living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But through the Holy Ghost we receive glimpses of the joy of eternal life. Ours is a message of hope. Eternal life means we can live with our families forever in the presence of God, in a state of "never ending happiness" (Mosiah 2:41). Who doesn't want that? These blessings are what everyone wants, and they are so attainable! Once we realize the significance of the blessings of this Gospel, we want to share it with others. We want everyone to feel this same happiness and qualify for the same eternal blessings. A vision of where we are going significantly affects the kind of lives we live now.

After MLC we had dinner at the mission home! It was awesome! I haven't seen the mission home since the day I came out in February. February 5 to be exact. It felt so good to be there again. It brought back a lot of memories of my first day in the field. All I remember is feeling perfectly tired, terribly nervous, and incredibly excited for my mission ahead. And now I'm over halfway through. It's amazing to look back and see just how far I've come and how many lives have been blessed in these 11 months. I will always be grateful for it, and I will never regret it.

Wednesday we spent most of the day working with less actives and potential investigators. I don't remember too many details though. Being on a mission has completely fried my memory.

Thursday we had a little miracle. I think I mentioned Tori in my last email, but just a refresher, we OYMed Tori on the street as she was walking her dog home. She started talking to us about all the health problems that she has struggled with throughout her life. We went back to see her this week and she said she and her husband have desperately been looking for a church. In case anything happens to her, she wants her family to be in good hands. They were flat-out rejected by certain congregations in the area, and she's looking for a church that will accept her and her family with open arms. Her husband, John, has a friend who is LDS, and after talking with him on the phone, he told Tori to call us. He said if she called us, she would be in good hands. She took that as a sign that she needs to meet with us. We testified of eternal families and the glory of the resurrection and she just cried the whole time. Even though we were surrounded by distractions, the spirit was so strong. We are going to go back and teach her and her husband about the restoration tomorrow morning, and I am so excited! She needs this Gospel so desperately. It is everything she is looking for. She would have come to church yesterday but her son got sick. I have to say that one of the things that surprised me most about becoming a missionary is just how difficult it is to get investigators to church. But once they come they have an incredible experience! It's just a matter of getting them there!

After Tori we met with Janet, Chad, and Austin. This lesson was a little more on the frustrating side. Janet and Chad have a strong Christian background, and they have so much potential. We truly think they are ready to progress in this gospel. Austin is having a harder time. He is very much athiest and isn't really open to the idea of there being a God at all. We tried to teach the Plan of Salvation, and Janet and Chad were drinking it in, but the majority of the time was spent trying to get Austin to search for God in his life. He just doesn't want God to exist. He doesn't want a life after this one. That is so foreign to me. I hold different opinions in the deepest respect, but it is sad to see how people are so quick to reject our message. It's simply due to lack of understanding. If they truly understood the principle of eternal life, if they really knew what this message of hope offers, they would make like King Lamoni's father and be willing to give up everything to obtain this gift. As a missionary I feel like I'm walking around with this *box. And inside this box is eternal life. And I just want everyone to open it up and enjoy its contents with me. I want everyone to partake of these blessings and see just how much this gospel will bless their lives now and their lives in the eternities. Rejection is hard because I know how much it can bless their lives because of how it has blessed mine. I try my best to explain what God has in store for the faithful and still people don't want it or don't believe it. They don't want my box. They don't think eternal life is actually in the box. Or they don't want to have to sacrifice or change to open the box. Having that lesson with Tori and that lesson with Austin in the same day was really interesting to me. It shows how some people are ready for this Gospel, and others need more time. I'm grateful for a loving and merciful God who will give His children several opportunities to open this box and enjoy its contents. And I'm so grateful to see how it blesses the lives of the people I teach. Being a missionary really is the best thing ever.

*Note: Analogy borrowed from my favorite older sister.

In completely unrelated news, Friday night was the ward Christmas party! It was tons of fun. We had a huge potluck with tons of delicious food. It was like Thanksgiving all over again. I just love this ward! There are so many incredible people here! And we have dinner lined up for Christmas Eve and Christmas! Woohoo!! And I love both families a ton, so I'm really looking forward to it! Rest assured family, I will be in good hands this Christmas. And I'm excited to Skype! We'll be Skyping from the Barrott's home. I'll send more details next week or the week after.

So the main entertainment for the Christmas party got sick. Bishop Isaacson was trying to throw something together at the last minute but no entertainment seemed to be present. Guess who got to be the last-minute main entertainment? Woohoo!! It was divine intervention. I said I possibly could perform a Christmas solo on the piano if I could remember all of it. Bishop Isaacson leaped at the opportunity and had me play it. Before I played I said a prayer that I could remember the whole thing and I did it!! Woohoo!! It was "I Saw Three Ships" by John Schmidt, which I hadn't performed in 7 years. Luckily it stayed in my head! I got a lot of compliments on it afterwards. This ward is very validating. I just love them a lot! It was awesome!

Saturday we had our exchanges with Signal Mountain. I hosted this one in Kingsport with Sister Crapo. What's funny is that Sister Crapo was Sister Schwab's previous companion. So Sister Crapo was working in Hixson like . . . 2 weeks ago. And I barely know the area at all. So basically she was giving me suggestions about who we could go see and where everyone lived. It was a learning experience for both of us! It was a really good exchange though. We saw Donna and Sean again and had an excellent lesson on the Book of Mormon. They committed to read it! They won't come to church though. One step at a time. They'll be out of town for the holidays so sadly we won't be able to see them for a while. Only downside to proselyting during the holidays is that a lot of people will not be home. You win some, you lose some I guess. After Donna we saw Lisa, an investigator who has a son on a mission in Hawaii. She is not even semi interested in the gospel right now. It's kind of sad. She's really supportive of her son though, and that is inspiring. She's in our prayers! We also got a new investigator! Her name is Joan. She was investigating the church like 5 years ago and still wants to learn more! She likes to discuss religion academically, so this will be a bit of a challenge, but I'm excited to start working with her. She believes that the Book of Mormon is true, so she has a ton of potential!

Overall, good exchange. I love Sister Crapo. She has a lot of Sister Schwab's mannerisms, which I thought was pretty funny. It was fun for her to be back in Hixson again. I couldn't imagine going on an exchange back in Kingsport again. She did a fantastic job!

Yesterday was a bit of a rough day for me but I saw tender mercies throughout the entire day that completely made up for it. The elders gave us caramels, we got permission to take a nap because we had to get up at 5:15am for a meeting, and we had a fantastic lesson with a couple less-actives, James and Hayes. They haven't been to church in a long while, but we took a couple team-ups with us and they were really bold. By the end of the lesson James wanted to start coming to church again. It was so fantastic. The Church is true! And last night's devotional was amazing. We watched it at the church, and I sat behind this adorable 2 year old who kept me giggling the whole time. I gave her a sticker and she had a party and a half with it the entire hour. She's adorable! The devotional itself was also really good. It's my favorite one of the year. I love spending this time to contemplate the significance of the birth of our Savior. Jesus Christ truly gave everything for us. What are we willing to give back to Him this Christmas season? Food for thought!

Well family and friends, that's all I have for y'all this week. Good week. Good times. Good work. I love being a missionary. I love serving in Hixson. I love my companion. Sister Schwab is one of the most tender-hearted Christlike people I have ever met. We are practically best friends already, and I feel so blessed to have her as a companion. This Christmas is definitely going to be a good one! Just know I am happy, in good hands, and that I am praying for all y'all every chance I get! Until next week, all my favorite people!

-Sister Fox

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello Family, Friends, and Followers!

Happy December! And Happy Holidays! Best time of the year. Why? Because few things make one more happy than Christmas music, gentle snowfalls, the occasional cup of hot chocolate, and a plethora of delicious southern food. I love the holiday season! And I love spending it here in Tennessee. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving. I'll tell all y'all about it but I have to go in chronological order because that is how my brain works.

Monday was awesome! We had an epic marshmallow fight in the cultural hall together as a district. We were putting up forts, army crawling under chairs, and doing all sorts of crazy stunts. I don't want to brag, but, I gained some serious skill with a marshmallow gun. I can launch those babies across the room and make it hurt upon impact. That's probably why I got shot in the eye. Karma. Good thing it was only a marshmallow!

Tuesday was pretty good! I met a couple investigators that Sister Schwab had been working with before. The first one we met was Michelle. She has been taking the discussions for a while. She wants to learn more, but her life is crazy. Story of my mission, but we do what we can to meet with her. I had a strong feeling in there that she would be baptized. I know she'll make it one day. Hopefully I'll get to see it. She's pretty solid and has a strong testimony. Hopefully we'll get to see her progress!
After meeting Michelle we got to meet Kim. Kim is really solid too! She was actually a referral from South Pitt; she had gone to church a couple times there. She said that when she went to church it was what a church should feel like. She wants to learn more! She had a couple questions and concerns, but before we could even address them she said, "But it's okay, because I'm sure my questions will be answered as I continue reading and praying." Whoa. Where did this person come from? Golden. She's awesome. Unfortunately we didn't get to see her again this week because of the holiday, but we'll try to see her this next week!

Wednesday was our exchange with Cleveland. It was really fun! I love exchanges because you get to meet all sorts of fun people. I spent the day there with Sister Quada. That was really fun because we were actually in the MTC together! While in Cleveland we actually interviewed for the newspaper because their ward's Public Affairs Specialist has connections with the local newspaper. At the interview I ran into Elder Thompson, who was also with me in the MTC! It was cool. We did a lot of reminiscing about fun MTC times. I can't believe that was almost a year ago. Time flies. Anyway. The interview was a neat experience. They didn't ask me anything because I was visiting for the day, but the reporter asked questions about why they came out on missions and what they hope to experience, and it was a really powerful experience. The Spirit was really strong. It works too! People recognize the missionaries on the street from reading the newspaper. Even though I didn't get interviewed I did get my picture taken. So . .  I'm famous! In Cleveland! Or something.

Thursday was Thanksgiving! As we all know. We had a blast that day. We started out the day with the ward turkey ball. We didn't have too many people there; it was the zone leaders, the bishop, a couple of his counselors, an investigator, and a young man in the ward. Sister Schwab and I were the only females. Once again, a public thank-you to Daddy for teaching me how to play football! We had a blast! And I made some pretty miraculous catches if I do say so myself. Bragging rights. Because I'm terrible at all sports that don't involve climbing up things. Our team lost. But! Bishop said I was MVP! Which was a bit of a stretch but it was still nice for him to say! =D After the football game we did weekly planning. Woohoo! Nothing is more fun than sitting in your apartment for 3 or 4 hours and planning for the week! Okay so it's not that entertaining. But! We still had a good day. We had Thanksgiving dinner with the Aldrich family and it was delicious! I love southern food, especially at Thanksgiving time. I ate until it hurt to breathe. Their family is awesome! They even let us help them decorate their Christmas tree after dinner! That meant a lot to be able to participate in that tradition. That's one of my favorites. =D I love the holiday season! After dinner we took a piano hour. We were asked to give a special musical number at MLC, which is funnybecause I've never seen a special musical number done at MLC. But it'll be good!

Friday wasn't that good of a day, but those happen every now and then. We did have a fantastic district meeting about finding through former investigators. It was inspiring! Then we had lunch and were notified we had to change the oil. So we went out in search for a place that would change the oil and rotate our tires. But we had to find a place that takes credit cards over the phone. You would think any place would do that, right? Haha . . no. We drove. Everywhere. Even Walmart won't take credit cards over the phone!! We finally went to Sears and they said it would take 3 hours because it was Black Friday. I said probably a hundred prayers to help us find a place that could take a card over the phone and would be finished within a reasonable time limit. We finally found one! It was the next place we drove to. By the time we found a place and had the oil changed it was time for dinner. So we lost a day of proselyting. Kind of a bummer. We did leave a Book of Mormon in the waiting room and gave everyone and their dog a pass-along card to make up for it. That night we would have visited people but we needed to take the District Leader up to Dayton for a baptismal interview, and we didn't get home until 9:00. Ah well. Those days happen. At least now we have new oil and rotated tires! I'm just grateful for a car in the first place.
Funny story about that. We have 1100 miles for the month. We were still over100 miles from the mark when the Assistants called us Tuesday to tell us we had 1300 now because we were Sister Training Leaders. I told him it was a Christmas miracle. Between Tuesday and Saturday we hit 1287 for the month. We drive a ton.

Saturday totally made up for Friday though! We had an excellent day on Saturday. We tried to see a lady in the ward, but she wasn't home. So we decided to try her neighbor, Donna. She was home! We booked a quick return appointment and we were about to leave but she wanted to show us her dogs. So we went around back and she started talking to us about her farm. That's when her husband came by and started talking to us too. He's a blackbelt and he said he wanted to teach us some self-defense moves. Pretty cool! We were about to leave again but they wanted us to tour their house, so we went inside. We got into a really good discussion about religion and we invited them to hear our message. They both accepted! It was awesome! They are really open-minded and have tons of potential. We actually saw them again on Sunday and had an incredible Restoration lesson. They have Native American ancestry, so I could see a little light-bulb go off when I told them the Book of Mormon was about the ancestors of the American Indians. They accepted a copy and said they would read and pray about it. They want to get back into church!! The Spirit was so strong in that lesson, it felt like a breath of fresh air to finally be teaching investigators again. I love Shawn and Donna a ton already! I have a feeling they will progress. At this point you can just tell sometimes. They were hesitant about being baptized but I can see so much hoensty and sincerity in both of them. They're awesome!

Saturday we also saw Janet again and her grandson Austin. We taught them the Restoration and Austin's uncle joined in on the lesson! It was crazy; we were showing them a visual for the apostasy and Austin's uncle, Chad, said that he had seen that visual before. I don't know of any other church that teaches the apostasy, but maybe they do? The visual was about priesthood authority, so that was really interesting. He took it as a sign that he needs to listen to our message. We testified of the Restoration and committed all of them to read and pray about it. Janet and Chad are on board. Austin is a tougher cookie to crack. He is the one who doesn't believe in God, and he flat out told us he doesn't really want to. We read a bit of Alma 32 with him and told him about experimenting. He took well to that. He said he would experiment with prayer and see what happens. I"m praying his heart will be softened and opened. He really is a fantastic kid; he's about 18. He's a really good person. I can see him going far, he just needs to get over his science hurdle. Science and religion really do work beatifully together. It just takes the right perspective.

Sunday we had a fantastic Fast and Testimony meeting. It was one of the best I've seen! Every testimony was a powerful declaration of belief and the Spirit in the room was unmistakable. I wish we had had investigators there! Getting them to church on Sunday is still one of the hardest things to do as a missionary. We had one lined up to come but his ride forgot to pick him up! That is when a returned missionary said he'd pick our investigator up. I love returned missionaries. Their empathy is so appreciated. Unfortunately our investigator turned down the offer when his ride showed up. Sad day. We'll get him to church next week! After church we saw Donna and Shawn and then broke our fast at our apartment. That was a funny experience. We may or may not have completely run out of food this week. I thought I bought enough on Monday but I was sorely mistaken. All we had left was a box of pancake mix. So! We made pancakes! The Kingsport pancake tradition continues! It was still delicious. After dinner we saw a less-active family, the Smiths. They never really seem that excited to see us, but we pretend not to notice and just love them to death anyway. We read a few scriptures with them and told them God loves them. Sometimes that's just what people need to hear.

So, that was my week! Not bad at all. This area really does have so much potential. I feel like we're just kindling a little fire and things are about to erupt. That's the feeling I get here. That's the feeling I got in Kingsport too. Lots of potential but no explosion yet. It'll come. I know we'll have success here. It's just a matter of time and patience! My mission has taught me patience like nothing else ever has. It's a fantastic lesson to learn though!

This week I've been studying up a lot on the process of purification and sanctification. I love the scripture in Helaman 3:35. Purification and sanctification comes through humility. When we are truly humble, we recognize our weaknesses and rely on Christ and His atonement for strength to overcome the natural man. Christ can only refine us and help us overcome the natural man if we yield our hearts to Him. In the words of Elder Corbridge, "He cannot change what He does not have." If we do not give Him our heart, He cannot change our hearts. Sometimes, at least in my experience, we find ourselves in a spot where we want to grow closer to the Savior and more sensitive to the spirit, but we don't know how. We feel like we have hit a slump in our lives, so to speak. We feel like something is missing. On my exchange with Sister Quada I learned about a 40 day sanctification fast. I think it's absolutely brilliant. 40 is a number that symbolizes spiritual growth and preparation. You fast for a day and ask God to help you come up with a list of behaviors that chip away at your spirit. Sometimes they seem like trivial things, yet, in the long run, they can harm you spiritually. After you come up with that list, you promise the Lord that you will fast from those behaviors for 40 days. Each day is a challenge, but as we humble ourselves and call on the Lord for help, we are given strength to refrain from all of those behaviors. After 40 days, our hearts are more purified. Our motives become more pure. We become more effective instruments in His hands. I think it's a beautiful idea. The Christmas season is a great time to reflect on what we're willing to offer the Savior. Are we willing to offer Him our whole heart? Are we willing to sacrifice those favorite little behaviors that chip away at our spirits? Food for thought!

Well, that is about it for this week. I hope you all know how much I love my mission. I cannot believe how fast time has flown. I wouldn't trade these last 10 months for anything. I have learned lessons of infinite value. I have grown in ways I could not have otherwise. I am so grateful and happy to be out here. I love my ward. I love my companion. She is one of the most incredible missionaries I have been blessed to associate with. I love being a missionary. I love my Savior and I love devoting my time, talents, and energy to serving Him. Thank you all so much for your prayers, testimonies, and support. You all inspire me every day! And I love y'all so much! Have a fantastic week!

-Sister Fox