Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I Am A Child of God

"Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device" (Acts 17:29)

"I am a child of God / and He has sent me here" ("I Am A Child of God", Children's Songbook p.2)

"I understood who I was: a daughter of God"
Guess what? You are the son or daughter of Divinity! God is your Father and Heaven, the Father of your spirit. And because we are all sons and daughters of God, we are also all brothers and sisters.

Everyone loves their brothers and sisters (even if the drive you crazy sometimes). The same should be true of everyone you meet, because they are your brothers and sisters as well. It is important that we recognize that. When we do, we begin to see people the way He sees them, and He is no respecter of persons--in other words, He doesn't love one person more than another. All are equal before Him, equal and unique.

Because we are all equal in God's eyes, we also ought to be equal in each other's eyes--that is, don't esteem anyone higher or lower than yourself. Don't judge them for appearance or behavior. Everyone has trials they are going through, and we never know the full story. How would you feel, if you were going through a really tough time and it affected your attitude? Or you were badly injured and it left a permanent, visible scar? How would you feel if because of this outward appearance, people were prejudiced against you, or assumed you were just unfriendly and aloof, and so nobody wanted to be your friend? Or nobody supported you during this trial?


I am sure that you would feel pretty awful. Lonely, unlikable, inferior even. Well, guess what? When you judge others based on outward appearance or behavior, you are causing them to feel those things. And instead of helping them through this hard time, you ignored them, or even gossiped about them. Stop and think for a minute--would you do that to your brother or sister? If this person were part of your family, would you judge them and treat them this way? I imagine most of you would answer, "Of course not! They're my brother/sister, and I love them!" But you know what? That stranger you just cataloged as a druggie and unlovable is also your brother or sister.

This last week I had an experience that made me realize just how important it is for us to recognize others as our spiritual brothers and sisters, and loving them as such. And just how much that simple thing--trying to see others as their Heavenly Father sees them--can change the way you view everything else.

On Wednesday, my companion and I had a really good lesson with an investigator.. But what made it so amazing for me was, halfway through, his mom, who was sitting in on our lesson, decided to sing us a song. This may not sound like a big deal, but let me tell you about her. She's had a stroke, and so she can't hear at all, and she can't talk very well (as a result, she can't sing either). The stroke also left the left side of her face kind of sunken and saggy, and her eye is red and dull--though the other side of her face is completely normal. Manuel told us that the neighborhood kids who saw her were afraid and called her a witch and other mean things. She may not have heard it, but that didn't make it right.

When she decided to sing, at first I was a little skeptical and was sure it would sound like screeching. Honestly, it kind of did, and I couldn't understand anything she said. But she was so enthusiastic about it that I couldn't help smiling. I also found myself watching the other side of her face, where it looks normal. Her eye was sparkling and bright and she was smiling. And I suddenly realized that it didn't matter what her physical condition was right now. She was still a beloved daughter of God, one of His choice daughters. And in the resurrection, she would be restored to the beauty I saw on the right side of her face.

Suddenly I felt a surge of love for her that I knew came from God. I recognized her as my sister in spirit. And since then, I can only see her bright, sparkling eye and her big smile every time she sees my companion and I. In short, now I only see her as a beautiful and loved daughter of Heavenly Father. I

As a result of this experience, I try to see everyone else the same way. It takes a little effort sometimes, mostly because I didn't have a so-called miraculous glimpse through God's eyes at them the same as I did this older woman. But I know that as I pray for help and make an effort to do it, I will begin to have the same love for everyone else as I do for this woman.

Tender Mercy: I think the above experience counts :) But I also got Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Godiva chocolate from the members we ate dinner with on Tuesday, for no reason other than they love us. This just happens to be my ultimate favorite combination of flavors :D

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Power of Music

"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads" (D&C 25:12).

Music is so powerful. It can make us happy or sad, excited, angry, or content all with just a few notes.  I'm sure you've noticed this, too, how music can change your mood. Because of its power, though, it is even more important to be extra careful what type of music we listen to, because it can affect our lives for good...or for evil. Because once we memorize a song, the lyrics can pop back into our heads at any moment, and if those lyrics or the rhythm are not conducive to the Spirit, we cannot focus on what is most important.

Music happens to be a huge part of my life. I love to sing and I love to listen to music. Before my mission I don't think I went a day without listening to it. I noticed the difference in the songs I listened to. Some of them made me really happy, others helped me concentrate on homework and others were simply distractions. Each song brought a different spirit.

That is why, as missionaries, we are only allowed to listen to songs that bring the Spirit and direct our minds toward Christ and toward our purpose. Other songs are simply distractions. That doesn't mean we can only listen to hymns, but I can't listen to some of my favorite Lifehouse songs. To illustrate the way different types of music can affect you, here are two experiences I've had recently.

First, as a missionary we are allowed to use Facebook and blogs (like this one :) ) as well as other social media to help others come unto Christ. For this, we need access to the internet. The lobby of my apartment complex offers free wi-fi and computers are available for the residents, and so that is where my companion and I go when we want to do our online proselyting (aka Facebook and blogs). Music always plays through the speakers there. It's the same type of music I listened to before my mission. None of it is inappropriate, per se, nor is it loud either in volume or rhythm, but when that music is playing, it is harder for me to concentrate on what I'm doing. Once, a song came on that I liked, but I couldn't concentrate at all while it played because of the rhythm and volume, so we had to ask the manager to turn it down or off so we could do our work. When an inappropriate song comes on, I feel the Spirit disappear instantly. And usually it takes effort to bring it back.

In contrast, for our mission Christmas activity 2013, we were privileged to hear Freddy Ashby and Clyde Bawden perform some Christmas songs and hymns for us. Not only was amazing talent showed from both of them, but the spirit they brought while singing about the birth of Christ and of His Atonement gave me goosebumps, and I wished I could have heard more than the hour they performed. The Spirit was so strong and reaffirmed my testimony of my Savior, and also reminded me what my purpose as a missionary is: to help others come to know Christ and feel joy in His Atonement just as I do. The music moved me to ponder even more deeply on my knowledge of the Gospel and on my Savior, and the reason for the Christmas season.

The contrast between these two experiences is as stark as black and white. With the first, the Spirit just wasn't there. With the second, the music, the lyrics especially, reinforced my testimony. I left that performance with a greater desire to serve and to improve myself.

I encourage you all to be selective of the type of music you listen to, because it really can change who you are. I hope you will go through your playlists and reevaluate the type of music you listen to. This doesn't mean you have to change your entire playlist to hymns, because a lot of songs out there are amazing. Just be careful, because what enters your mind cannot be erased. So fill your mind with good things.

Check out this article from the September 2013 New Era: https://www.lds.org/new-era/2013/09/the-influence-of-music?lang=eng&query=the+influence+of+music

Tender Mercy 12/13/13: Just a short one this time. On Monday, while my companion and I were working at the Christmas lights at the Mesa temple, two volunteer hosts working alongside us brought us some hot chocolate. We were very glad of it because it was freezing that night.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Love and Light

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

Do you realize just how vast and unimaginable our Father's love is for us? Probably not. But it is true: our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He has provided us every possible resource to help us return to Him again. And He always gives us signs of His love, no matter how big...or how small.

Our Heavenly Father loved us enough that He was willing to sacrifice His Only Begotten Son to suffer and die for us that we might have even a chance to return to Him. And our Savior had that same incomprehensible love for us--individually!--to be willing to suffer unimaginable pain on our behalf to make it possible for us to repent and be relieved of the burdens that accompany this mortal experience.

This Christmas season is a chance for us to try and return some of that great love our Father in Heaven gives us. While we will never be able to give Him half of what He has given us, we can show our appreciation and love for Him through service to others, even in the smallest ways. We can also demonstrate our love by recognizing the true meaning of Christmas and the symbols we associate with this season.

One of the biggest symbols we see at Christmastime is light. Nearly everyone decorates their house and Christmas tree with beautiful multicolored lights, but why? To most people it is simply a decoration. But there's more to it than that!

This is what the lights we use during this time should symbolize in our minds--our Savior. He is the Light of the World, and through Him each of us can experience in a very personal way that great love our Savior and our Father in Heaven have for us. We acknowledge this love by remembering the reason for the season--our Savior and His Atonement--and take some time to draw nearer to Him and to our Father in Heaven.

For those of you in or near Mesa, AZ or Salt Lake City, UT, take an evening to come to the lights at the temples, and feel of the wonderful spirit that comes when you combine the beauty of those strings of bright, colored lights and the proximity of a temple of the Lord. For those not near either of those places or are unable to attend, take a minute to look at your beautiful Christmas tree or go to another community display of Christmas lights or nativities, and remember why you are celebrating this time of year.

Take a minute to remember your Savior. And take a minute to remember His love.













Tender Mercy (12/07/13):
Just a little thing this time. My companion and I went for a walk in the park next to our apartment complex just at dawn for our exercise time last week. It was chilly, but refreshing. And I got to wear my hoodie:) As we rounded the far side of the park to start heading home, we found ourselves facing east, and the sunrise was absolutely beautiful. It was pink and gold and orange, and the clouds were lit magnificently by the rising sun. After seeing something as magnificent as that, how can anyone doubt the existence of a loving Heavenly Father?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Act of Thanksgiving

"And in nothing doth man offend God...save those who confess not His hand in all things" (D&C 59:21).

In the spirit of Thanksgiving tomorrow, I decided to say a few words about gratitude. We have so many things to be thankful for that I wonder if we even realize just how blessed we are. We have countless blessings, and this time of year is the time when we recognize them. But there are 364 other days in the year. What do we do with them?

I think oftentimes we take for granted the little things we have, like cars, electricity, warm clothing, food. The things we use every day. But there are people out there who don't have those things. Communities everywhere do canned food drives to collect food for those who don't have the means to have a big Thanksgiving dinner like most of you will enjoy tomorrow. We are extremely blessed, and oftentimes we don't even realize it. So we need to give thanks now and tell our Heavenly Father just how grateful we are just for the privilege of being alive, because for all we know, everything we have could be gone tomorrow.

Another aspect of gratitude is being grateful for everything we have, and all our experiences. The good...and the bad. Because when we look back at those trials we have, we find that we grew stronger. We wouldn't have had that chance without those hard times, and so that's something else we need to remember as well. In the scripture I quoted above, it says "confess...His hand in all things" (emphasis added). "All" includes trials as well as those moments we cherish.

I know that as you remember all your blessings, the big and the small, this Thanksgiving and always, you will find so much more joy in life. You will learn to really appreciate everything with an eternal perspective, knowing that everything will benefit you in the long run, if you just recognize and acknowledge it.

Tender Mercy:
My companion and I were able to contact and teach a potential investigator yesterday that we haven't been able to contact for nearly two weeks, and the lesson was amazing! The Spirit was strong, and we set a return date! Plus we were re-invited to their Thanksgiving Dinner :)
Or, we could count the 90-minute nap I got on P-Day this week.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tender Mercies

"But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he has chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance" (1 Nephi 1:22)

When we are going through a hard time--and even if we're not--there is always evidence of our Heavenly Father's love for us, and proof that He knows us perfectly. he shows us his love through what a book of Mormon prophet called "tender mercies." These can be little things, like a smile or a message from a friend you haven't talked to in a while, or it could be a miracle of something working out that you didn't think ever would.

These little things in life show us that God is mindful of us, personally. He knows who we are, and He knows "how to succor his people" (Alma 7:12). That is because we are His children, and He wants us to know of His love for us.

I have had the privilege of seeing many of these tender mercies throughout the short term of my missionary service thus far. And from now on, at the beginning of each post, I will describe a tender mercy I've experienced since the last post. Here's my first one:

It's been a long, difficult week and we've been having trouble with one investigator who is super sincere, but hasn't yet committed to doing everything she needs to yet. So I was feeling kind of down, and though I didn't realize it until later, perhaps a little homesick because, while the weather here in Arizona has been beautiful, I wanted it to feel like winter--or at least, the winters I'm used to back home in Texas. And then it rained! Super hard, and all day long.

Most people would probably think this would make things worse, but not for me. I've always loved the rain, and back in Texas it's always cloudy and wet in the wintertime. So the rain really helped lift my spirits and excite me about the work again, because now, not only do I get to experience what I never thought I would in Arizona--a thunderstorm--I also felt just a little more at home. And I know my Heavenly Father made it that way so I could have the optimism to go on.

The same day it rained (Friday), we had an appointment with that troublemaker of an investigator to see how the fast we challenged her to the day before worked. And it did! She was super excited and even more determined to come to church. She even agreed to let us come by in the morning to make sure she came. So I got a double-dose of my Heavenly Father's love for me this last Friday. And I know that there were probably countless other ways He helped me out that day, and every day.

With this new thing I'll be doing, by telling you all about the tender mercies I experience each week, I hope I will come to recognize even more my Heavenly Father's hand in my life, and I challenge each one of you to do the same. I promise that you will find more happiness and contentment in your life, no matter what trials you may be going through.

Check out this video by Elder Bednar about tender mercies!

video

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Splits and Change

Missionary work is a lot like life. It's hard work. You are pushed out of your comfort zone over and over again. It forces you to confront your weaknesses and faults. Then you either let yourself be changed for the better, or pass through whatever trial like it never happened, and you haven't gained anything from it. Obviously the better choice is to yield to our Heavenly Father's will and allow ourselves to be shaped into the person we were meant to be.

Life is all about change. Humans are not stagnant beings. The times that change us most are always the times that are the hardest to get through. Trials are hard, they are usually painful. It can be hard sometimes to look beyond the moment we're in right now. But there are always great blessings, a downward slope, if you will, on the other side of the mountain. We just have to trust our Heavenly Father all the way up the hard climb. We just have to endure with faith, striving to remember that "[our] adversities and [our] afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if [we] endure it well, God shall exalt [us] on high" (D&C 121:7-8).

God doesn't give us trials to punish us, but to refine us and help us become the person He intended us to be. If we trust that our Heavenly Father will give us the strength to get through, those trials we are faced with will always change us for the better, the way God intends. We will be able to look back and realize that we never would have gotten where we are without that trial.

As a missionary I have embarked on a journey of change. And it's hard. But I'm glad for the challenges I have, because part of the reason I chose to serve a mission was to strengthen myself and smooth out the rough edges of my character. So I willingly accept the challenges I have, because I want to change and be refined, and become the person my Heavenly Father wants me to be.

Last night I faced one of the biggest challenges I've had so far on my mission. My companion and I went on splits, which means we each went with a sister from our ward and separated to knock on doors, trying to find people to teach. I had to stand on my own, without my companion to support me or cover me if I froze up. I'd never done that before, and I almost never initiate conversation with people I've never met before, let alone try to invite people to learn about the Gospel. But that is exactly what I had to do. I had to be the leader, the one who knew what I was doing because the sister I was with had no idea either.

I was scared. But I knew that with my Heavenly Father's help I could do it, and even have success. So I took a deep breath, braced myself and tried to decide what to say, completely expecting to be speaking Spanish and probably mess up a few times. And my Heavenly Father knew it. So He made sure I got the side of the street entirely inhabited by true-blue...Americans. Everyone spoke English. And the first person I talked to was already a member. A little tender mercy, for sure.

As it turned out, nearly everyone turned us away (One woman even called us a cult! Her tone and body language practically screamed "get away from me and my family!"). But I knew I'd tried my best, and after the first few doors I wasn't nervous anymore. In fact I started getting excited. And I even managed to find someone! He turned us away at first, though very politely, then, when me and the sister I was with were several houses farther down, he chased after us, apologized for turning us away, and said he really wanted to learn! I know that was my Heavenly Father telling me that I wasn't a completely failure, and that He was proud of my effort.

So, even though it was hard to step out of my comfort zone, I was able to overcome my fear, and even find excitement in the task. I was able to laugh at the various forms of rejection I got, and wasn't discouraged at all. And the next time, while I will still be nervous, I will find it easier to do, and, as my companion told me, by the end of my mission, I'll "be a pro at door approaches!" I know that everyone can have a similar experience. All we have to do is trust in God and allow Him to work through us and shape us into the person we are meant to be.

video

I got these pictures from the Facebook page Every Member a Missionary. There are a lot more great, inspiring sayings and quotes. Check it out! https://www.facebook.com/Membermissionary

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Day in the Life

Now that you know why I decided to serve a mission, I suppose I ought to describe a little about what missionary life is like. So, here's my daily schedule:

6:30 a.m. The alarm goes off. I roll out of bed and onto my knees to say my morning prayer. I usually ask for the guidance of the Spirit to help me find and teach people. Then my companion and I work out for half an hour so we can be strong and able to do the Lord's work throughout the day.

7:00 a.m. My companion gets in the shower and I eat breakfast before getting ready for the day. My breakfast is usually either cold cereal or oatmeal with either toast or yogurt. Then I get dressed and ready for the day. Before I start my studies, I put on my name tag, because I am a representative of Jesus Christ for the duration of my mission, and it's important that I remember that as well as those who see me.

8:00 a.m. I begin my personal study. This is the time I get each day to focus only on myself and my own spiritual progress. I usually study the Standard Works, which includes the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. I also study Preach My Gospel, our handbook to what and how to teach and be the best missionary I can be.

9:00 a.m. I begin study with my companion. We go over our plans for the day, discuss our investigators and the lessons we will teach, and create lesson plans for them. We practice teaching and study together. We also recite our purpose as missionaries so we can always remember the reason we are serving a mission: To invite others to come unto Christ.

10:00 a.m. Since I'm a new missionary, I need to be trained. Our training program lasts the first twelve weeks in the field, and so we call it 12 Weeks. It helps me become more familiar with missionary work and also helps me develop important teaching skills so that I can learn to stand on my own when I'm teaching and not lean on my companion or others.

11:00 a.m. Lunch! We take an hour for lunch each day, to eat and also for some additional study time because nobody takes a full hour to eat. I usually make something simple, like a sandwich or a freezer meal and some fruit, like an apple.

12:00 p.m. Language study. Since I'm teaching in Spanish, I have to know Spanish. So I take an hour each day to study the language--grammar, vocabulary, etc. I use this time to both study grammar concepts and translating. I don't have much time to write while I'm on my mission, but I still brought my notebooks and so I translate what I've already written to help me become more familiar with sentence structure and vocabulary.

1:00 p.m. Proselyting time. We teach investigators and members, find people to teach by referral contacting or street contacting. There are also occasionally meetings at this time that helps everyone in our mission improve. Also, since I am authorized to use internet resources to teach now, I try to take an hour with my companion using online resources ti find and teach as well as share uplifting and inspiring messages via Facebook.

5:00 p.m. Dinner. Our branch is small, so we switch off weeks eating with members of our branch and members of our sister ward that covers the same area but speaks English. So I get quite a variety of food. But our members insist on feeding us more than we can feasibly eat, so exercise each morning becomes more important to work off those extra calories from all those tortillas!

6:00 p.m. The is prime proselyting time. We contact a lot of people during this time, as well as have teaching appointments with our investigators to help them learn the gospel and progress toward baptism. We also visit members occasionally to strengthen their testimonies of the gospel.

9:00 p.m. We return to our apartment. We review our day to see what worked and what didn't, what we can improve on, etc. We set goals for the next day and evaluate our work that day to see if we met the goals set the previous night. We also plan for the next day.

10:30 p.m. Lights out.I try to be in bed before this time because missionary work is exhausting, and I need all the sleep I can get so I can put forth my best effort toward teaching the next day. But I always say a prayer before getting into bed, continuing to ask my Father in Heaven to help me improve and help me help others come unto Christ.

6:30 a..m. Wake up and do it again!

While being a missionary is hard, it is also very rewarding. I've already learned a lot and will continue to learn. I can feel the influence of the Spirit as I do the Lord's work, guiding me in the things I do and the words I say. I know that this is His work, not mine, and that's why I'm willing to expend so much effort in doing it. That is why I am willing to sacrifice 18 months of my life and follow such strict guidelines. Because I know that the work I am doing will bless the lives of so many people. I may not always see the fruits of my labors while I am serving a full-time mission, but I have still planted seeds that other missionaries can harvest in the future.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why I'm Serving

Hi everyone! I'm sure everyone here wants to know why anyone would want to give up a year and a half of their life to preach the Gospel to people who may not even listen, especially with all the rules missionaries have to follow. Well, I'm here to answer that question.

I was just like a lot of other girls. I had a life planned out for myself. I was going to school at Brigham Young University-Idaho, studying to be an author of young adult novels. I never really thought about going on a mission, because sisters couldn't go until they were twenty-one. And so I figured I would graduate college and then consider serving a mission.

Then came General Conference, where members of the Church listen to our prophets and apostles teach us. They also give us current revelation and counsel from God. This time, in October of 2012, our prophet, Thomas S. Monson, announced that the age requirements for missionaries had changed. Young men could now serve at age 18, whereas before they had to be 19. And sisters could now serve at 19, which was how old I was at the time. I realized I didn't have to wait. And I realized I had a big decision to make.

I listened intently to the rest of Conference, and then I started praying and fasting to know whether it was the right decision to go, because I wanted to. Everyone always talked about how amazing their missions were and how much they learned, and I wanted that for myself. I also began to have a growing desire to share the knowledge I have, and the joy I feel in this Gospel.

After a few weeks, I had received my answer. It wasn't a vision or anything remarkable. Rather, it was a quiet confirmation that either choice was acceptable to God, and my Heavenly Father trusted me enough to serve his children by serving a mission.

And so I started preparing. It was hard at first because I was at school, but as soon as I got back at Christmastime, I began the application process. I got all my paperwork in by June. Even though I started in January, it took so long because I procrastinated. I got my call to serve on July 18, 2013.

I was called to the Arizona Mesa mission, Spanish speaking. And my training would take place in the Missionary Training Center in Mexico City, Mexico! I would report on the 28th of August. I was so excited! I spent the next four weeks preparing, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and then I was off. I said farewell to my family, school, and normal life for 18 months in order to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Hispanic people in Mesa, Arizona.

And that's where I am now. I have been out for three, almost four weeks now and it has been amazing.

Even though it's only been a short time, I have already grown so much. I have an even firmer testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon and the reality of the Restoration by the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today, and that we have the fullness of the Gospel on the earth today, the same as when Christ was on the earth.

I know that the Gospel and the Atonement of Christ can changes lives. It already has mine, and I am looking forward to even greater growth as I continue to serve and share the knowledge that I have.

So, here's to the Best 18 Months of my life!

To learn more about the Gospel and what I am teaching, visit http://mormon.org/ :)
Also, check out my Mormon.org Profile: http://mormon.org/me/957T

Originally posted 11/5/13.