Hello Family, Friends, and Blog Readers!!
So I just realized I took my own sweet time responding to everybody's emails and now my time has been shortened. Whoops. So I'm either going to have to type really fast or this email is going to be particularly short.
This is my second to last email! How depressing is that? I'm going to miss these. They give me a wonderful opportunity to look back on the lessons that I learned throughout the week and share them with the people I love, hopefully for their learning and benefit. But! I do intend to keep these going. My life back at home probably will not be as exciting as my missionary life, but there are still so many lessons to learn and to be shared. So I fully intend to start a new blog with weekly adventures and insights. I haven't thought of a title yet, but it will be announced in the near future.
This week was much better than last week, and I feel much more chipper! Which is good. So! Let's get started, shall we?
Monday: Monday was p-day! As it is every week. Unless you're in Chattanooga and people keep scheduling zone conferences on your p-day. But I'm not in Chattanooga so that's no longer a problem. We went bowling! And by "we" I mean everyone in the District plus the West Hills Sisters! I sat in the back with Sister Day and Sister Roundy and talked about life and how enjoyable it is. Many people asked me why I wasn't participating in the bowling festivities. My response? Why on earth would I want to pay money to chuck a ball at some pins and miss? I was there for the social aspect. And to cheer on my companions. Except every time they got a strike I actually wasn't looking. Whoops.
Monday evening we had dinner with the Moss family, and they are such a sweet couple. They also had David and Bethany over, and together we had Family Home Evening. We are just getting started with the new member lessons. It was a very enjoyable evening! It's so nice being surrounded by several of my favorite people. :)
Tuesday I don't remember what we did, but I'm sure it was important. We did volunteer at the Storehouse again, which is something I look forward to every week. We also got to see Karen, who is an investigator that sisters started working with last year. She really began to open up to us about her concerns and we had a wonderful lesson on the Plan of Salvation. We're seeing her again this week! And Sister Griffin is joining us! I've never proselyted with the mission mom, so that should be a lot of fun! Just another perk of being ridiculously close to the mission home. :)
Wednesday we saw one of our less-actives who struggles with depression. The weather this past week has been *beautiful.* It was 80 degrees and sunny, so we did the lesson on the lawn, which was glorious. We had a great lesson about the enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ, and how the Savior can help us through the challenges of everyday life. He can give us the strength and the motivation to do important things when we cannot find the desire or motivation within ourselves. I've felt it over and over on my mission. Some days you just don't feel like working, and the energy and motivation to work is gone. Yet, when you rely on the Savior and pray for strength, He gives you exactly what you need to get the work done and to bless the lives of others.
Wednesday evening we saw Joy and Gary again, another pair of investigators who have been looking into the church for a while. We went over with our ward mission leader and talked about David A. Bednar's "Patterns of Light" found on mormonmessages.org. Those videos bring a lot of clarity to how the spirit works and how revelation is typically received. We talked about the importance of looking to God as the source for truth and praying with an open heart and open mind. They're still seeking for answers but I'm confident they will find those answers in time.
Thursday we had a really good lesson with our investigator named Travis and his son Gabe. They have been looking into the church for quite some time, but the hustle and bustle of life tends to get in the way. We talked about living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how it needs to be a pattern for how we live our lives. There is a difference between going through the motions and changing as a result of the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about becoming like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We need not just be baptized and stop our progression there, but we must work each day of our lives to change our characters into something more beautiful and Christlike. This is only made possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The Gospel that Jesus Christ set forth -- faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end -- is the path we take to access the changing/healing powers of Christ's atoning sacrifice. That is the beautiful miracle of this Gospel. Change is possible. Our characters are never stagnant or "stuck." We never have to say, "I can never change" or "it's just the way I am." Change is always possible; that is the purpose of life and the purpose of the Gospel. And it doesn't need to occur all at once either. The Lord accepts our every effort to come unto Him, even if we start small. Just like a perfect parent rejoices with every small step that a new child takes, our perfect Father in Heaven rejoices over the baby steps we take toward Him. I love His infinite patience and love!
Friday was my final exchange of the mission, and it was fantastic! It was fun being on the other end. Sister Whatcott joined Sister Leifson and me in Pellissippi, and though we didn't get to see many people, we learned a lot from one another. Exchanges do wonders for my energy and enthusiasm levels. It's fun to learn from new styles and hear the insights of sisters that you love and admire. We also had a wonderful district meeting about charity and love. When you lose yourself, you find yourself.
Saturday we met a less-active who reminds me a lot of a less-active in my last area. He grew up in the church, but over time he left. Faith is a hard concept for him to grasp. He thirsts for certainty and looks only for physical evidence of God's existence. It is hard to share with these people that faith *is* certainty. Faith leads to greater certainty than miracles or signs. Logic comes from your own intelligence, which is imperfect. Faith is communion with God, who is the source of all truth. Faith roots us deeper than physical evidence ever could. But, you cannot force anyone to have faith, it must be developed, so we simply bore our testimonies and encouraged him to try the experiment outlined in Alma 32. Blessings and understanding await those who seek the Lord on His terms.
Saturday evening we met with a family of members who have been going through a rough time lately. The father has been having a lot of health issues and he recently moved to a nursing home. His wife is going in for knee surgery this week, and their daughter is the only one left to take care of them both. We had a really inspiring conversation with her, though. She told us that her favorite Gospel principle was hope. So, naturally, we instantly connected. She had written her entire masters thesis on hope. We talked about all the discoveries on hope that we have made and it was one of the best lessons of the transfer. I just. Love that topic. So much!
Sunday we had an incredible Sacrament Meeting. We had a member of the high council address us, and it was the same member who had given the "no coincidences" address over in West Hills a year ago. He is *fantastic* speaker. He likes to pick a phrase to weave throughout his talk. Last year it was, "What a coincidence!" This time it was, "Things don't change, people do." He talked about the miracle of change and how it is made possible through the atonement. He gave the example of the US Hockey team in the 1980 Olympics when they played against the Soviets, who had an impressive winning streak for the past several winter Olympics. The US coach tried to implement on changes in the team's strategy. They went back to their original plays because those plays were comfortable and familiar. Before the Olympics they lost to the Soviets 10-3. After deciding to trust their coach, they implemented the changes in their strategy and beat the Soviets in the finals. This game became known as the "miracle on ice." I think there's a movie about it.
Here are some thoughts that he gave after telling the story: They would not have reached their goal if they refused to change. The same is with us. We cannot reach our goals if we do not align our strategy with God's. All things are possible to them that believe. Christ has the power to transform and change people, no matter their disposition. Sometimes the Lord gives us the strength to change instead of changing our situation. During those times when we wish He would remove the trial, He is helping us learn how to become the person that we need to be. He has not abandoned us and He never will. God knows what is necessary, but He always shows compassion. Our problems do not just disappear, but in the midst of such times, God sends angels to strengthen us as He did for our Savior Jesus Christ as He suffered for our sins in the garden of Gethsemane. We are angels to support each other. It is not the suffering that leads to change; lasting change comes through acceptance and reliance on the Atonement of our Savior. To return to live with our Heavenly Father we must not only be cleansed, but changed. The Atonement is not just about paying a debt, it's about transforming debtors like us. It's a miracle.
Well family and friends, that is all I have time for this week. I love you all so much. Thank you all so much for supporting me throughout my entire mission. Thank you for the letters, the emails, the prayers, the words of encouragement and love, and for all the effort you have put into supporting me. It means the world to me. I cannot thank y'all enough. My mission has been such an incredible journey and I am so sad to see it end. But I am excited to be reunited with all my loved ones, who have given me everything so that I could give my everything to God. I love all of you!! Have a week full of miracles and I will send my final email next Monday. God bless!