Thursday, February 25, 2016

Still Going Strong!

As of February 24, 2016, I have officially been home from my mission for exactly one year. And what a year it's been! This is my third semester back at school. I've been on countless dates (and still don't have a boyfriend). I've met so many new people and done so many other things. But most importantly, I have not forgotten my mission, nor have I forsaken it. To repeat the cliche, my mission was the best 18 months of my life.

Now, I define "best" in a few different ways. First and most predictably, those eighteen months spent in the desert valley of Mesa, Arizona were some of the happiest of my life. I wasn't always happy, mind you--I'm still human, after all--but I was close to the Spirit, close to my Savior and my Heavenly Father, and that kind of happiness cannot be replicated.

Second, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, those eighteen months were the hardest of my life. I cried more times on my mission than I ever remember doing at any other time in my life. I was constantly rejected, let down, heartbroken, stretched and wrung out and burned (literally and figuratively). My Heavenly Father was constantly testing me, pushing me beyond my comfort zone, occasionally shoving me out of my depth. He tested my resolve. But, I never gave up. And I grew and became better because of all those hard times. To quote Kelly Clarkson, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," and since my mission didn't kill me, it must have made me stronger.

Piggy-backing on that idea, my mission was the best in terms of my own personal growth. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I am not perfect--far from it, in fact--but I am always trying to be better. And with every trial that my Heavenly Father gave me, I found a way to learn and grow from it. As a result, I didn't recognize the person I'd been before by the time I finished my mission. She was a stranger to me. And I made a solemn promise to myself that I will never go back to the person I was before. And I am happy to say, a full year--12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days--later, that I am still going strong!

I still have my challenges. My life isn't all rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes the trials I face seem bigger than anything I experienced on my mission. I still struggle with some things. But, I'm trying. I'm fighting. My ultimate goal is the same now as it was while I still wore a name tag that read "Sister Hurd": become the person my Heavenly Father wants me to become, and help as many other people along that path as I can--starting with my very own family (and believe me, that isn't an easy task).

I have a long road ahead of me and a whole new set of challenges awaits around every corner. But I won't give up. I will always be striving to become better, a little bit every day.

Wish me luck on my new journey!

PS: Don't forget to check out my other blog, A Writer's Cache!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Last Step

"The last step of any journey is the first step of an even greater adventure" - A Wrinkle in Time

As you may have guessed from the quote, my journey as a missionary is coming to an end. And what a journey it's been! I've learned and grown so much that I can't even begin to describe it all. But I'd like to use this last post as a chance to share just a few of the things I've learned in the last 18 months and what I'm going to do with them afterward.

First of all, I've learned the value and the rewards that come from working hard. A mission isn't just teaching and having fun. A mission takes a lot of work and dedication. But the reward of hard work is undeniable. You really learn to have joy in the work. And I will continue to work hard. I still have two years of school left plus I need to find a job! So I will never let myself become lazy and unproductive like I was before this journey. Because without work there is no progression and no improvement. I will use every moment to do something that will help me or someone else become better than they were before.

Second, I've learned what it truly means to love like the Savior loves. That has been something I've been working on for a long time, and I'm seeing the fruits of it. My relationships with people--members, those I'm teaching, my companions, other missionaries--are so much stronger. And you know something? The secret to an unbreakable relationship is love and sacrifice on another's behalf. Just like Christ sacrificed his very life in an act of love for us, I will sacrifice for others. I want to strengthen my relationships with my family and current friends as well as forge new friendships that will last. And I know that the first thing I have to do is love them. Then I have to show them that love, by making small sacrifices for them. Hopefully in the process their love for me will grow, too :)

Third, I've learned how to overcome weaknesses. It's a hard thing to do, especially because it means admitting you have weaknesses in the first place. But it's always worth it. One of the scriptures that has come to mean the most to me during my mission is found in The Book of Mormon, in the book of Ether chapter 12 verse 27: "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and my grace is sufficient for all men who do humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." I know this promise is true because I've seen it. I started my mission with so many flaws and imperfections, but I've overcome so many of them through faith and reliance on the Savior.

Lastly and most importantly, I've truly come to know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the true gospel. Only through the path that Jesus Christ has shown us can we become like our Father in Heaven. I now know, without a single doubt and with all of my heart, that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. He is the only way back to the Father, and He has shown us that way. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the true Church of Jesus Christ.

My mission has literally changed my life, and I know that I will continue to see the blessings of my mission from this moment on.

Sister Hurd, Missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, signing out.

PS: Check out my new blog, A Writer's Cache!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Weak Becomes Strong

"If men come unto me [Christ], I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men who humble themselves before me, because if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them" (Ether 12:27)

Change. It's such an interesting word, isn't it? Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. But it's always good in the end. I, at least, have never passed through a time of change and found that, eventually, I haven't been better for it. Sure, it was hard at first, but perseverance resulted
in a slightly more polished me. I'm still working, of course, because I'll never be perfect in this life as a human being. But I can still improve. Here's an experience on how I did it, so each of you can know at least some basic steps you can follow to make your own improvements, especially in this New Year with all your resolutions. I don't pretend to have all the answers, because I certainly don't. I only hope someone can benefit from me sharing this experience.

At the beginning of my mission, there were a lot of things I realized I would have to change. And I've recognized even more need for change and improvement as time has passed. One of the biggest things I eventually realized I would have to change was my selfishness. It wasn't obvious to me, and maybe not to anyone else, either, because it didn't make me arrogant or overly rude. But it was keeping me from progressing and being my best self. And my companion knew it. She wasn't afraid to be blunt with me. She told me one day, straight up, with all the love she had for me, that I needed to change. That I thought too much about myself and not enough about others and it needed to change. It was hard to accept. I admit I wanted to deny it at first. But then, reflecting, I realized she was right.

That was step one, recognizing and accepting the need for change. Step two was deciding I would do something about it. I refused to sit back and let that weakness hang over me, holding me back. I almost immediately decided I wanted to be better, I wanted to make the necessary change. I wanted to be able to put others first. So, I set the goal. It wasn't a general goal, either. It was very specific. I set the goal that I would think of others' needs before my own, even in the little things like adjusting the air conditioner in the car. And that I would think before I spoke so I wouldn't offend anyone by saying something I thought was funny but that could hurt someone else.

The third and most important step (I think) is that I got down on my knees and pleaded with my Heavenly Father for help, because I knew I couldn't do it alone. And it wasn't just a, "help me please?" Instead, it was a real plea: "I'm not strong enough alone; I need your help. Please help me not to be selfish, to think of others first." Being specific is the key. Even though Heavenly Father knows our needs, He waits for us to ask exactly what we need before He gives it to us so He knows we will appreciate it. And asking for specific help in this goal, nearly every time I prayed, helped me to remember what I was working towards and also who it was that would help me.

Lastly, I worked. I worked hard. And I worked consistently. The change didn't happen overnight. In fact it took weeks before I started to see any improvement, and even now, three months later, I'm still not sure I've really made much progress, even though others have seen a change in me. I still slip up occasionally and I still need my Father's help to stay on the path.But I'm still working, and one day I will have overcome my weakness.

In summary, the four steps to change are 1) Recognize and accept the need for it, either yourself or someone else pointing it out to you; 2) Have the desire to change and decide to act on that desire; 3) PRAY! Plead for Heavenly help, because you can't do it alone, however awesome you may be; and 4) Work. You won't accomplish anything by just sitting around and waiting for it to happen. And then keep working. And don't ever give up. If you stay constant and rely on Heavenly Father, I promise that "weak things will become strong unto [you]."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

To Infinity...And Beyond!

"The perfect place to start is exactly where you are now."
Christmas is over and the new year is nearly upon us. The question is, what will you make of 2015?

Every year we leave the past behind us while keeping treasured memories and continue onward. Every year we have the chance to be better. Or, we can be content to stay where we are. I don't know about you, but I want to be constantly improving. That means staying stationary is not an option. And as ever-changing beings, it shouldn't be an option for you, either. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that if you aren't stepping forward, you're sliding backward (think of a treadmill).

So, what will you do to move forward? The best way to start is with a vision. Where do you want to be on December 31, 2015? Then, ask yourself, "What do I need to do during the year to reach that?" It's all in goal-setting. It sounds so cliche, but I've learned that it works. I've heard somewhere that "a goal not written down is only a wish." Fleeting and forgotten in just a few days. So write down your new year's resolutions! And keep them in a place where you will see them often so you will remember to work on them.

The key to all of this, though, isn't in our own effort (though that certainly is an important factor). The key is trusting in our Savior, whose birth we have just celebrated. Only through Him can we make permanent changes in our lives for the better. I've seen it happen in my life this last year. And so, I have a firm witness that change is possible. You don't have to stay where you are. Trust in Him and let Him fill the holes in your abilities (because none of us are perfect). And as you work hard and consistently, the change will come. Slowly at first, because these things don't just happen overnight. But it will come. And you can reach new heights. You can reach infinity, and beyond. Anything is possible with the help of our Savior.

So, I invite you all to act. Set a goal of personal improvement. Make a plan for how you will accomplish it. Ask your Father in Heaven for His help in achieving this goal. Then, work hard and trust Him. Don't ever give up. I know He will help you. But you have to take the first step.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

His Image

"Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received His image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?" (Alma 5:14)

When you look in a mirror, who do you see? A boy or girl, a man or woman. Perhaps you resemble your father or mother more. Or perhaps you look like a sibling or grandparent. Or maybe you look past the physical to what's inside. Maybe you see more of your weaknesses than your strengths. Or maybe you see your strong points. But the big question is, is what you see in the mirror a reflection of who you really are? Who do you want to see when you look in the mirror?

The biggest thing to remember is that the physical features, whether you're skinny or plump, pretty or handsome or unremarkable, doesn't matter at all. It's what's on the inside that matters most. And what's on the inside shows through. It doesn't reflect in the features or body size, but rather the perception others have of you. If you see the positive in yourself, then others see that positive attitude on the outside. And, of course, the opposite is true. So, considering all this, what do you want to see? And how do you make that happen?

The key is change what's on the inside. If you want to see in yourself someone who just seems to glow with happiness, then you must turn inward to turn on the lamp. The way to do that is to remember who you really are. You're not just one person in a million, easily overlooked and unimportant. You are a child of God, the child of a Heavenly King. And once you realize that, you can start working to reflect that divine nature on the outside.

The way to reflect that is through coming unto Christ. He is the only way to truly change in order to reflect His light. And that is how we come to be born of God and receive the "mighty change" of heart. And upon receiving that light, it will shine through you and when you look in the mirror, you will see a true follower of Christ. And others will see it as well and want to know Him because they know you.

Change is possible. Starting right now, especially at the end of another year, you can change. All it takes is a desire, the willingness to work, and trust in the Savior. Then you will be able to answer the question above with a confident, "Yes!" So go change, then change the world!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The First Gift

It's Christmastime! A time for gift-giving, song-singing, tree-decorating, family-gathering, cookie-making. There are a lot of fun traditions and activities that go along with this festive time of year. But, how often do we stop and think about the reason behind all the festivities? What does Christmas really represent? It's hard to remember the why behind this time of year behind all the hustle and bustle of the season. But the why is the most important.

At Christmastime, we don't just celebrate family and presents. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth wasn't like that of any other child. This birth was prophesied by countless ancient prophets for centuries before it happened. It was to be the birth of the Son of God, the prophesied Savior of the world. Christ speaks in his own words of his purpose for coming to the earth, standing before Pilate and the jeering crowd, having suffered for our sins and about to be delivered up to the crucifiers: "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world" (John 18:37). The apostle John also testifies of the true meaning of Christmas: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

This Christmas season, we celebrate the birth of our Savior and Redeemer and remember the gifts He gave us. Christ gave us the hope of eternal life, an opportunity for forgiveness, a chance for peace amidst trial and affliction. And the Father gave us His Only Begotten Son. So Jesus Christ was the first gift of Christmas, the reason for the season. So, during this Christmas season, remember the very first gift, given out of pure and unconditional love that we might "not perish, but have everlasting life."

Merry Christmas! And don't forget to #sharethegift and allow others to experience the joy that comes with the true meaning of Christmas.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Transfers Again: An Experiment, Part 2

As this transfer draws to a close, I decided a follow-up was needed. I've been working on the goals mentioned in the previous post, and here is my progress report. With each goal I've set I've seen personal improvement, and I know it is only through my faith and my reliance on the Savior that I have been able to become better in each area.

First, charity, the pure love of Christ. It has been my focus for a long time and as such I've been consistently working on it. I came into this area having heard many good things about it, so I was already hopeful. Also I made the determination before I even got here to love the members of the branch as well as the individuals and families we work with as quickly and as sincerely as possible. And I'm amazed at how that mindset has impacted my experience here. From the very start, I already loved each person I met, and that love has only grown as I've learned their names and who they are, and most importantly as I've served them and worked with them. I also love more sincerely the missionaries I've worked with my entire mission. I can testify that a positive mindset and an honest effort can and will result in miracles, like those I've seen here.

Second, diligence--working hard and taking advantage of every moment. I can honestly say that I've worked harder in the last several weeks than I have my entire mission. We always had a goal, a destination, in mind, and a plan to reach it. We never stopped nor did we waste a single moment. I personally could be better at initiating the work, if I'm honest with myself, but I didn't mind being pulled along; in fact I thoroughly enjoyed it. I only hope I can keep it up, and make things happen because I'm working hard, not just because my companion is leading me along. A result of our diligence is that those families with whom we have been working are progressing more in the gospel, and they have a growing desire to be faithful to it. Of course, none of that is due to my efforts or those of my companion. None of the miracles I've seen I can attribute to anyone but God. He is the worker of miracles; we are just the instruments.

Lastly, following the guidance of the Spirit. I admit I didn't focus on this one as much as I should have, but I've already made a commitment to do better. I have noticed that with extra preparation, the Spirit was more likely to be present, and I feel as though I have become a better and more effective teacher. The successful lessons we have had are completely the result of the Spirit guiding me and my companion and testifying to the individual of the truthfulness of our words. I have an experience to share about one experience where we followed the Spirit.

One night we both had the feeling that we should visit a sister in our ward who hasn't been to church in some time and has been having some struggles. We'd never previously talked very openly with her about spiritual matters, but we did let her know of our love for her through service. When we arrived at her house, it was late but she was awake, which was unusual. We talked a little about the trivial things, then she opened up and confided in us her struggles. She said she feels that she has to do everything by herself and must take care of everyone else, and she felt as if no one knew her inner struggle. We listened with love, both of us wondering and praying to know what we could possibly say to help her. Then my companion began to testify of the love of the Savior, how perfectly he knows each one of us individually, and how much he longs to reach out to help us. Right in line with my own thoughts. I added my testimony to hers. I could feel as I spoke and testified that my words were being guided by something beyond myself. I couldn't have spoken so simply yet so powerfully if it weren't for the Spirit. The Spirit was palpable and it was clear she could feel it. She was crying and we could all feel the Savior's love for her.

There are still two weeks left of this transfer (I just don't know when I'll next have a chance to post because it's going to be busy). I intend to keep working on these goals and continue improving. And I know for a surety that as long as I remember to rely on my Savior, instead of trying to do everything myself, I will be able to accomplish my goals. And each one of us can do the same, as long as we rely on Him.

"When you have already done everything possible, let God do the impossible."