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

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