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 , 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.
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 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. :)
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!!!
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. 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.
! 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!
! 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!! 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 back !! Christmas miracles live on!!!
Yesterday was good too! We had good 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!