Monday, June 30, 2014

Forward, not Backward

Hello Family and Friends and other Fantastic blog readers!!! (Just for clarification, I'm calling the readers fantastic, not the blog. Just in case some people were thinking that I'm getting a big head or something . . .)

This week was really weird and I have a weird mixture of emotions going on inside my skull (cuz . . that's where they're located?) that I can't really put into words, so who knows how this post will turn out?

But, for the most part, this week was good. So no worries there. :)

Monday we played basketball as a zone! And by "we" I mean the elders and the one sister who has basketball skills. I sat on the stage and wrote letters while trying not to get nailed by said basketball. I succeeded for the most part.

Monday night we had a cookout and a family home evening with some members in the ward. Do you know that a barbecue and a cookout are two different things?? More proof that I'm not from the South: I thought they were one in the same. A barbecue is when you put barbecue sauce on it. Because if there's no barbecue sauce, then it's not BBQ. A cookout is when you just "cook" things "out" on your grill. No BBQ. So that provides an explanation in advance as to why I'm going to be all picky about what I call food gatherings in the future.

Anyway.

The family home evening went really well! We met Joy and Gary, an older couple who have been investigating the church for quite some time. We watched a mormon message on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and talked about how it changes our lives, and how that change is made possible through baptism by authority and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They both said they are still searching for the truth, but if they come to know that all this is true then they will be baptized. I have really high hopes for them; they are amazing people. The spirit was really strong and I could feel God's love for them. That's one of the incredible blessings of being a missionary; we have the opportunity to feel God's love for others. It's overwhelming to think about how much He truly loves us. I have felt that love so much this week. More on that in a minute.

Tuesday we volunteered at the Bishop's Storehouse in Knoxville and I saw ward members from West Hills!! And that is where Sister Roundy is serving so I got to say hi to her!! It was fantastic. :) It was like a family reunion! Except instead of eating tons of food we were putting it all in boxes. It was the first time I've volunteered at a storehouse, and it was really cool to see how much effort the church puts into providing relief for families. We volunteer every Tuesday, so I'm excited to go back tomorrow!

The highlight of Wednesday was dinner with David and Bethany! I love those two. They are probably the most lovely couple you could ever meet, and they are friendly and fun! They took us to Cheddars, which is one of my favorite restaurants in Knoxville, then we went back to their place for a lesson. David is going to be baptized this Saturday and we are really excited for him! He's excited too. They both have been blessed with incredible gifts that will bless the lives of those around them; I'm excited to see what the Lord has in store for them! The best part of this being my last area is that I won't have the cliffhanger problem when I leave! #facebook.

Speaking of leaving, Thursday was an interesting experience for me. We were visiting a member named Edie (who is amazing, by the way! She knows tons of government officials and she has formally introduced several missionaries to the mayor of Knoxville. She is one of the best public relations specialists I have ever met!) when we ran into a couple of sisters who were visiting some of their favorite places that they served when they were missionaries here. I actually knew both of them: Sister Cady and Sister Preston! I served with Sister Cady twice while I was on exchanges. On just those two exchanges, she taught me so much about how to be a missionary, and successfully changed the course of my mission. Twice. I've looked up to her since I first came out. It was so fun to see her again! Sister Preston was my first Sister Training Leader and I really look up to her as well. They were really solid missionaries. Sister Cady told me a lot about what it's like to not be a missionary anymore and it kind of scared me a bit. She got emotional as she shared her experience with losing the mantle of a missionary and having to rediscover how the Spirit communicates with her. It was a hard adjustment for her.

So that put my spirits into a weird state of affairs. I don't really know how to say this without offending anyone. So I'm just gonna tell it how it is; I may or may not have been unable to sleep at night due to nightmares, and I'm thinking that they're mostly caused by the stress I feel about going home.

But let me explain. No, it's too much, let me sum up:

I am really *really* attached to my calling as a missionary. This has been an experience, like I've said before, that I will always hold sacred. I feel so close to God serving as His personal representative that I'm scared to think of the differences that will occur in my own spirituality by losing my calling. Not that I think I will regress in my spirituality (I sure hope not), but that the growth won't be so rapid. And for some reason or another that saddens and scares me.

Plus, change is really hard for me. When I grow attached to people, my heart breaks to leave them. Losing myself in the service of God 24/7 has changed my life, and it will feel so different devoting my time to other things. It's hard to put into words, but to be honest I am really scared to leave this lifestyle behind.

At least I was all last week. I had to do yoga and meditation in the evenings to calm myself down so I could sleep. Every time someone brought up the end of my mission my heart sank a little. And it still does a bit. But! I'm feeling a lot better now. And that's because of Elder Holland.

Yeup! Elder Holland. He is the one that inspired me to serve a mission, and now he's the one that is inspiring me to end it with a spirit of gratitude.

The talk he gave entitled, "The First Great Commandment" is the one that inspired me to serve a mission, if anyone is curious.

I read a talk by him just this morning entitled, "Remember Lot's Wife." Oh heavens. Go read it.

Usually when people are discussing what happened to Lot's wife, they teach about the importance of leaving behind a sinful life. In this case, Elder Holland speaks about the importance of living in the present and looking toward the future with an eye of faith. Faith, he says, is "always pointed toward the future." In the case of Lot's wife, part of her sin was that "she doubted the Lord's ability to give her something better than she already had." Whoa. If that wasn't a personal call to repentance I don't know what was.

Elder Holland goes on to say that we shouldn't dwell on past mistakes either. This isn't too relative to what I was talking about earlier but it's good so I'm including it in this post anyway. As we dwell on our past mistakes and imperfections, or the mistakes and imperfections of others, "it stands in terrible opposition to the grandeur and majesty of the Atonement of Christ." It "rips out of [our] grasp that for which Christ has grasped [us]. God does not care nearly as much about where we have been as He does about where we are and where we are willing to go with His help.

But back to looking to the future with an eye of faith, Elder Holland concludes his miraculous address by saying, "Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there." Change, at times, is hard to accept. Sometimes we long for the past. The past is meant to be learned from, but not lived in. We should not let our attachments to our past--or our fears from it--prevent us from obtaining the blessings of the glorious future God has in store for each and every one of us. As Thomas S. Monson once stated, "Your future is as bright as your faith." God has a miraculous plan for each and every one of us. That includes temporary interruptions that we see as endings. But, in the eternal scheme of things, these are not endings, but everlasting beginnings, as mentioned in this past General Conference by President Uchtdorf.

So, to me, going home means the end of my time as a full-time missionary, but it is not the end of my mission, and it certainly isn't the end of my life. It will be different, but if I welcome it with a spirit of faith and gratitude, it can and will be just as glorious as my mission. I feel inspired by the words of Paul, "For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Philippians 4:11).

Now, this probably sounds repetitive, because I'm pretty sure almost every post for the last several weeks has been about me coming to terms spiritually about going home/not being a missionary anymore. Rest assured, I'm making progress. I'm just happy God is patient. :)

One last verse to finish:

D&C 128:22 - "Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad."

As we walk through life, we should always look forward with an eye of faith and see the beauty of God's plan as it unfolds for each and every one of us.

And yes, I love you all and miss you all, so keep that in mind as you read these posts. :)

I wish I had more time to tell y'all about the rest of my week! . . . Sister Fox's week in 2 minutes GO!

Friday we helped someone move and then we had to push off weekly planning because we were so busy, then we saw a less active who is coming back to church (he came!!!) named Jordan and a recent convert named John who said he wants to serve a mission (YAY!!!)! Then we saw a member named Ronnie and his girlfriend Cassie whom we taught the next day and she agreed to be baptized (YAY!!!!!!!!!!)! And we met our landlord and he is really nice.

Saturday we went to the Irion's farewell at the church and we performed! I performed in a trio with Sister Gotchy and Sister Clark, and we sang a gorgeous rendition of Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy. Then as a district we sang the EFY medley. Sister Irion bawled all the way through it. I'm going to miss those two! I love them so much!

Sunday we went to the Bishop's house for dinner and he invited David and Bethany, so it was awesome! We all played Loaded Questions together to get to know eachother better and it was a blast. That game is hilarious! Y'all should go buy it. We laughed and had a good time, shared a message about eternal families, and went home.

Sunday night we were talking together as roommates and started wondering why so many of us were having trouble sleeping and didn't feel at peace. Then we found out our apartment hadn't been dedicated so we dedicated it and the atmosphere already feels so much lighter. It's amazing how the presence of the Spirit can change an atmosphere in a home!!!

I love you lots!!!! Have a wonderful week!!

-Sister Fox

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