Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy One Year!

Hey Y'all!

I! Am out of words. I'm at least 9 kinds of tired. I counted them yesterday. This past week just felt weird. I tell everybody this a lot -- I get really weird around milestones. My mind goes into this existential phase where all I can think about is where I am as a missionary versus where I want to be as a missionary and if I've given enough the past 365 days. But it all turned out splendidly. I've been able to talk to Sister Schwab a lot about my personal growth and I can say with confidence that I'm where I want to be, and so excited to reach the point where God wants me to be in the next 6 months. It feels so strange to say I've been out a year. I feel like I've been doing this for a lifetime, yet I feel like the MTC wasn't that long ago. I've been going back through my journals and it's so humbling to see the growth that occurs, especially during the points of trial and hardship. I've learned so much this past year and one lesson sticks out to me: if you have a vision for yourself and where you want your character to be, and you ask God to help get you there, He will get you there. Each month I've been trying to pick a different Christlike attribute or character point I want to work on, and it's interesting to see how these attributes and characteristics are actually finding me. God has blessed me with experiences and trials that have truly turned weaknesses in my character into strengths and have helped me become the person I've wanted to be. It's amazing how missions can do that for you.
Anyway. Sorry if this is all over the place. My brain is still kind of in some philosophical/pondering mode. It may be stuck there for the next 6 months.

Guess what I learned this week? If you tell the world via blog that you have finally internalized the principle of hope, God is going to put it to the test to make sure you didn't just post a lie all over the internet. I hope I passed though! I'm feeling 90%. Several days this week proved to be difficult but I still felt an inner peace of mind that is usually foreign to my anxiety-prone . . . self. A lot of good things happened this week though to make up for the slower days. It's cool how that happens.

The week actually began with a huge miracle, so in reality there is no room for complaint. We had our first lesson with Daniel and Olivia. They are two kids of a less-active who wants to get back into church. We had a Family Home Evening with them and their grandparents, who are active members. Daniel and Olivia have been taking lessons from missionaries for years. I want to say at least 4. We taught the Restoration, watched the DVD, and let the Spirit soak in. The conversation moved to baptism, and Daniel and Olivia finally accepted a baptismal date!!! Woohoo!! This truly is a miracle. Their grandparents have been praying for this for years. They have been learning for so long and now they are finally ready! We saw them again Friday to teach the Plan of Salvation, and we did another Family Home Evening with them last night. Last night's lesson was perfectly fantastic. We focused on Faith and showed them the DVD Finding Faith in Christ. I've seen that dozens of times and it gives me chills every time. Something new sticks out to me every single time. We had an amazing discussion following the video, and it was cool to see how different scenes stuck out to different individuals. This time what stuck out to me was the definition of faith the man gives to his daughter: "Faith is knowing that good will come of whatever happens to us." The first time I saw that movie I thought that definition was weird. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and not seen. But after all my studies and experiences with hope that definition sank into my heart. Faith is trusting in the Savior and His promises of eternal life, and with that comes the knowledge that all things, whether good or bad, ultimately work together for our good. The resurrection stood out to me too. It sank in this time as I watched it just how miraculous the resurrection of the Savior was, and what that means for us individually. Because He lives, we too shall live. Every single one of us. And if we do our part to access His atonement in this life, we will be received into a state of never-ending happiness. We tend to forget how miraculous that promise is. I love the principle of faith. I love this Gospel. I love my Savior. And I'm so grateful for all the learning experiences I have had that have helped me grow closer to Him. After the lesson there was a thick spirit in the room. I had the feeling I should point it out, and it the result was marvelous. The kids realized there was a change, but they didn't know it was the spirit. And neither did their mom. She stopped me on my way out the door and said that she felt a change in the room, and it was a feeling she had never felt before, even though she had been a member all her life. She loved it. She loves having us come by. The gospel is truly changing not just her kids, but her. It's so cool to see! I love this Gospel!

So you're probably wondering where the test of faith comes into play this week. It wasn't really that bad. Tuesday and Wednesday were just incredibly slow.Tuesday we literally got nothing accomplished. We tried, though. We spent a lot of our time looking for Sherman. He has a tendency to hop on his bicycle and disappear. His phone has been off for 2.5 weeks and his baptism is supposed to be this Saturday. We'll have to cancel it because we haven't been able to teach him everything. We can't find him anywhere. It's peculiar that after we had such an incredible lesson with him and he was so excited to come to church that he just disappeared two days later. None of his family members have seen him. It's frustrating when this happens, but strangely enough I feel at peace about it. We'll find him eventually, I hope. He's in our prayers! When we couldn't find Sherman we spent the rest of the day trying to contact everyone and their dog. Everyone and their dog was either not home, or sick. Then we went on exchanges with the Chatt Branch sisters, and I stayed in the area. An STL's worst nightmare is when you bring a sister into your area and have a day where absolutely nothing happens. Well, I thought it was an STL's worst nightmare until it happened Wednesday. It wasn't that bad. I'm just glad Sister Whatcott was a good sport when every single appointment fell through and nobody was home. We got a lot of time to talk about Gospel principles during our hours and hours of driving though. So . . . bonus? Then we had a frustrating teaching appointment on Thursday with the parents of a less-active in the ward. He wasn't home, so we talked to his mom and dad for a while, who aren't members. We were trying to introduce the importance of our message and the blessings of eternal life that it offers when his dad stopped us and said, "You girls have nothing to teach me. You are so young. There is nothing more that you could possibly offer me." My heart just sank. These people just don't understand what they're turning down. It is ironic that today's youth have more knowledge pertaining to eternal life than the majority of the population on the face of the earth. It's also interesting how the Lord calls upon the weak and the simple to proclaim His gospel. Though it was sad, I left with the assurance that I was called to teach those who would receive us, and the scripture "let no man despise thy youth" took on a whole new meaning. Though we are young, and we haven't been around the block as many times as a lot of these people, we are truly representatives of Jesus Christ. And our success lies in our invitation to others to follow Him. One day he will have the opportunity to learn, and that is what gives me hope for the people who are so deeply set in their ways.

Though Sherman dropped off the radar, a couple more investigators came back on the radar this week! We FINALLY saw Tori. Oh heavens. She is so hard to get in contact with because she has a lot going on with her family and her health. Good news is that she still really wants this Gospel. She wants to learn, she wants to be baptized, and she wants to be married in the temple! Sad news is that I will probably never see it happen. She's going into surgery in February and will be put out of commission for 6 months. We would help her be baptized before her surgery, but we want to make sure that she is ready, and it would be best to wait until after. Though I will probably never see her baptized, I know that she will be one day, and I am just so grateful for the chance we had to find her and teach her a little. She will be one of those people I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life; I love her so much. And I'm so grateful that she has this opportunity to get this surgery. We will still be visiting her in the hospital and teaching her when we can. Who knows? Maybe she'll get baptized right before I get home. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

We have a new investigator! Haven't met him yet, but his name is Ethan. He is the son of a less-active who just moved into the area. He wants to be baptized! His mom told us. So we will start working with him this week! It's fun to be working with so many kids all of a sudden. They really refine your teaching. You are forced to simplify the doctrine in a meaningful way so that they understand it, and that helps you eliminate the fluff that we tend to bring into the lessons. It's tons of fun. I love kids. And you learn so much from them! It's the best.

Saturday night was pretty interesting. We volunteered to help a member with her daughter's wedding reception and she put us in charge of the dessert table. I was in charge of the dessert table at Nate's wedding, so I guess that makes me pro now. Except I may or may not have been snacking on the cheesecake bites the entire time. It probably wasn't the best idea to put Sister Missionaries behind the dessert table. There were a lot of non-members there so we had a field day OYMing. Didn't find anyone interested though. But hey. The success is in the invitation.
After that we had a very interesting lesson with an investigator named John. He was a referral from a family of members in the ward. We taught him the Restoration a couple weeks ago and we were planning on moving on to the Plan of Salvation when we started talking about the importance of the Book of Mormon and the implications behind it being the word of God. We talked about baptism by authority and the conversation got really interesting. We talked about the Priesthood again and it finally started sinking in. He asked us if that means his baptism didn't mean anything. That is the hardest question to answer in the South. Thank heavens for the MTC, right? We told him that when we are baptized it is a wonderful way for us to show God that we are willing to follow Him, and He loves and honors that. We are here to help people make a new covenant, and this time it is a binding, everlasting promise between ourselves and God because it's done with God's permission. He seemed to like that. Hasn't accepted a baptismal date yet, but we're working on it. One step at a time!

Sunday I got to give a talk in sacrament meeting! I thought I would be doing that a ton as a missionary, but it took an entire year. It was so fun. I love speaking in sacrament meeting! Never thought I'd say that. I got to choose my topic so I chose . . you guessed it! Hope. A thank-you to Chelise for inspiring 85% of it. I may or may not have copied and pasted paragraphs from at least 3 different emails into it. I gave you the credit. :) It felt so good! Several people came up to me afterward and said that it was exactly what they needed. I love it when that happens! Hooray for the Spirit!  Right after the talk Sister Schwab and I did our piano-flute duet! That was also a party and a half. Then Sister Schwab taught Gospel Principles. I guess it was the Fox and Schwab show on Sunday. It was tons of fun!

Oi there's never enough time to write these! Real quick. Yesterday was awesome! It was a holiday, and it was GORGEOUS outside. Like, short-sleeve weather. Perfect weather for .. . hiking!!! Finally!!! I got to go on a hike!! And it was gorgeous! And I saw rocks! Real rocks! And cliff faces! And natural bouldering sites! No, I did not boulder. Page 21 in the white handbook. Bother. One day I'll come back. We hiked up to a coal mine and it was way cool! There were bats hanging all over the walls, and I probably got within a foot of one of them. They're interesting. I was going to take home a piece of coal and then I realized that coal is not that fascinating. It was way fun! Didn't realize that hiking was good here in Tennessee. Granted, the mountains aren't that high, but there are some really pretty trails down here still. I've accidentally offended a lot of people by calling these mountains hills. Whoops. In my defense, they are.

AND that's a wrap! So this week was good, interesting, weird, I don't even know. I just love being a missionary and that's all that matters. Scripture of the week is found in D&C 50:40-44. Whenever you feel like you are fighting a losing battle, reflect on the Savior and His promises to you. I love you all! Thank you so much for being amazing! You all mean so much to me and I appreciate the support! Until next week!

-Sister Fox

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