This email is probably going to be a bit shorter. Either because people back home are praying for me to feel excited about coming home, or that I prayed for humility this week. I can't really decide which. #slowestweekever.
But! This week was a very memorable one in my own character development so I will always be grateful for it, all the same. :)
Many of you may be asking, "Why on earth did she pray for humility?" Well. If it makes y'all feel better I had to devote an entire hour in personal study to talk myself into it.
I have been reflecting back on my mission and have realized that the most meaningful experiences I have had on my mission have been a result of my efforts to weave Christlike attributes into my character. I have found as I have prayed for them that I'm not really choosing which ones I need to work on, they choose me instead. For the past while I have felt a strong need that I should start focusing on humility, but then I got all scared because praying for humility, from what I hear, doesn't end well. However, Alma 32 tells us that it is better to humble yourself rather than being compelled to be humble, and sooner or later you'll have to make the choice between the two. So I prayed for it.
But I'll include most of my notes about humility at the end of this email.
Monday everyone in the district wanted to go to the driving range to play golf. Golf? Nope. Sister Day and I stayed home and took a well-deserved nap. When people ask me why I respond that putting a golf club in Sister Fox's hands is never a good idea.
Monday evening we had a great lesson with John, who is a recent convert to the church. He gets so excited about the Gospel and he is preparing for a mission! He has made so much progress since he first joined and it is fun to see how enthusiastic he gets about the Church. Monday evening he actually taught us a lesson out of Alma. He focused on chapters 17-19 and talked about how awesome and faithful Ammon is. That lesson was tons of fun! He is going to make a fantastic missionary! He already wants to do all he can to serve in the church and he wants to share the Gospel with everyone. He's the best!
Tuesday we probably did something important. All I can remember is volunteering at the Bishop's Storehouse and then having all our plans fall through. Ah well. It builds character. :)
Wednesday we probably did something important. All I can remember is that all our plans fell through. Ah well. It builds character. :)
Thursday we probably did something important. All I can remember is going to an awesome district meeting about asking inspired questions. Then all our plans fell through. Ah well. It builds character. :) At least the district meeting was awesome.
After the district meeting we all took personality tests. Why? I don't really know. I don't know who instigated it. All I remember is walking into the kitchen and everyone in the district is pouring over this personality test. I learned that I am still very much an ISFJ. I have changed a lot on my mission, but I still remain a strong ISFJ. I was reading about this personality type in the results and my life started making a lot more sense and I had several epiphanies about myself and the way I approach missionary work. It was very enlightening.
Friday we met a part-member family visiting from North Carolina. The father is an active member of the church, and he has three boys ages 13, 15, and 16 who all want to be baptized. The sad part of the story is that their mom is completely against the church and refuses to let them join. :( We taught them about Mosiah 24 and how the Lord sometimes won't take away all our burdens at once, or provide immediate solutions to all our problems. This is how he tries our faith. However, He will make our burdens bearable if we drop them at His feet and take His yolk upon us. In time, He will help us get past our roadblocks in life. All we need to do is trust that His ways are higher than ours. That is the first step to humility. :)
Friday afternoon we went to see Karen, who has been investigating the church for quite some time. I think she initially started investigating when Sister Cady was serving in this area. Karen is an incredibly talented individual; she's 91 and an incredible artist. She held an art show at the retirement home she lives in and we had the opportunity to admire her work. We also got to meet with her briefly, and we talked about what Jesus Christ meant when He told us to take His yolk upon us. Our burdens are too heavy to carry alone, but with the help of Jesus Christ, we can pull any weight that is placed upon our shoulders. We just need to rely on Him for spiritual strength and guidance. Another step to humility. :)
Saturday the Bishop's Storehouse held an open house to the public, and we had several investigators planning on coming, so we were able to attend. It was awesome! There were a lot of people there who were not members of the church and we were able to share a little bit about emergency preparedness along with our basic beliefs. I also got to meet the mayor of Knox County! Our public relations specialist, Edie, pretty much knows everyone in Knox County. She's known as "The Queen of Knoxville." She's out of town but she still managed to get the mayor to come, so that was cool! And it turns out that the mayor is really good friends with David!! David came too. Poor Bethany was at home with a migraine. :( The welfare missionaries gave the mayor a starter kit to a home food storage, and they gave David one too! I don't remember if I've mentioned that David is on talk-show radio. He announced the open house on the radio and has been doing a lot to share the Gospel with people in the community. The mayor said that he trusts only a few people on the radio, and David is one of them. That whole exchange was really cool to witness. I can just tell that both David and Bethany are going to have a strong, positive influence on a whole lot of people in this area.
Another highlight from the Bishop's Storehouse was seeing Erica!! She and her husband walked right in and I was super excited. It had been over a year, so I extended my hand and said, "Hi! You probably don't remember me, but . . " She cut me off, "Of course I remember you!!!!" That made me particularly happy! Validated. I also saw a ton of other members from past areas and they all remembered who I was! Sister Fox has not been forgotten. :) That's always a good reminder. That reminder actually came a lot this week, with answered prayers and very timely letters. And cupcakes. Courtesy of David and Bethany. :) Thank you both!
So, after praying for humility, opportunities to humble myself came very subtly and I almost missed the entire point. All of a sudden, weaknesses started emerging. I found myself getting stuck in old patterns that I thought I had cast aside. New flaws started emerging. I started feeling incredibly inadequate with my calling, and with being a person in general. Feelings of confidence started giving in to feelings of guilt and shame. It really wasn't a pleasant experience and I didn't even know why it was happening.
But then I came across a verse in Ether that I have read probably 86,000 times in my life, and it took on a whole new meaning. Ether 12:27 tells us that if we come unto Christ He will show unto us our weaknesses. If we were to jump in a mud puddle and then wander around in darkness, we would have no idea how unclean we really are until we start walking toward a source of light. The closer we get to the light, the more dark spots we see in our own character. As we come unto Christ, we may find that weaknesses start emerging and that our flaws are put under a magnifying glass. It's all terribly frustrating. At this point we make a choice: let feelings of guilt and shame lead us to despair, which is the plan of the adversary, or let feelings of guilt and shame lead us to humility and reliance on the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.
The verse continues, "I give unto men weaknesses that they may be humble." The purpose of having flaws is to help us remember that we are nothing without the strength of our Savior. All of our gifts and talents come from Him. When left to our own strength, we can do very little. In the strength of the Lord we can do all things. My favorite part is the promise, "If men humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." The Lord promises us that if we are humble, and if we exercise faith in our Savior, that He will help turn our weaknesses into strengths. Having weaknesses gives us the opportunity to grow stronger through reliance on the Atonement. My favorite verse of all time is in 2 Corinthians 12, when Paul glories in weakness after realizing that weaknesses help us rely on the grace of our Savior.
At first I took humility a little too far as I focused too much on my weaknesses. I learned that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but less about yourself. It's honestly acknowledging your weaknesses and then leaning on the Savior to give you the strength to exercise your gifts and bless the lives of others.
The greatest tender mercy was Sunday. After feeling particularly awful Saturday night, I plead with the Lord for spiritual strength and guidance. For some reason I felt a strong impression that I needed to bear my testimony. I knew I would feel so much more confident and more spiritually rejuvenated if I could just bear my testimony. I had no idea how that was going to happen because testimony meeting happened last week and I'm pretty sure I ignored that prompting to bear my testimony last week. The next day, right before sacrament meeting started, the first counselor in the bishopric came up to our companionship and says, "Ok, which of you three wants to bear your testimony at the start of the meeting?"
I was more terrified than ever before for some reason, but I got up and bore my testimony and it was the best feeling ever.. I talked about how frustrating it was to have weaknesses put under a magnifying glass, but how it gives us opportunity to lean on the Savior and acknowledge that we can do anything with His help. I prayed fervently beforehand that it would touch somebody, and after the meeting I got a lot of positive comments on it. It was a gentle reminder to me that God is aware of me, and that, though I feel weak, I can still be a strong instrument in His hands to bless the lives of others.
The irony of humility is that humility is confidence. It's confidence that in the strength of the Lord you can do all things. To pray for humility is to submit your will to God's will. It's to pray with a spirit of gratitude. It's petitioning for spiritual strength, a defense against pride, which is the greatest destroyer of man's spirituality. Pride is the real terror here. It divides relationships, destroys unity, hardens hearts, and strips of charity. Humility brings about mercy, which unifies and strengthens. It feeds man's spirituality because it leads them directly to the Source of spiritual nourishment, and that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know He lives and loves us. There is nothing we could possibly do, no weakness that we can possibly have, that can separate us from His love. He is mindful and aware of all of us, and we can see His influence as we begin looking for it. As we humble ourselves and recognize that we need His strength, He will give us the strength we need to overcome any weakness or obstacle.
I would like to close with a quote by Richard C. Edgley:
"Humbly submitting our will to the Father brings us the empowerment of God--the power of humility. It is the power to meet life's adversities, the power of peace, the power of hope, the power of a heart throbbing with a love and testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ, even the power of redemption."
I love you all! You are all in my prayers and I am so grateful for all the love and support I get from back home. Thank you all for following spiritual promptings and sending me letters. Over and over these past couple weeks I have received letters right at the moment I have felt alone and forgotten. So thank you all! :) I love you all so much and hope you have an excellent week full of adventure!!