Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mexico Week 5 -- Princess Hair and MTC Hermanas

My dearest family! Mondays are so great. I love y'all.  So we were walking down the street the other day and who do I see?  Mr. Fredericksen!!

This week we had lunch with a Hermana in our ward and her daughter is two and loves Disney.  Frozen may or may not have been playing in the background as we ate .. I was literally dying.  I felt so pumped after we left!  I think it's because Disney has such a strong connection to our family .. and of course, families invite the Spirit.  I started thinking about when I'll be a young mom with young kids at home.  We can sing and dance around the house and watch Disney movies and it'll be great!!  I had to repent for being a little distracted after my Frozen moment, but in all honesty it was great. 

We also visited the Infante family that same day.  Their grandma lives with them and she's a member, been through the temple and everything but says that God told her to go to a different church now.  After we met with them, we were in the car with Hermano and Hermana Infante.  Hermana Infante broke down and told us that she just feels like Satan is working so hard on her lately.  The grandma always tries to talk to her teenagers about religion and so she's constantly trying to run damage control there.  She just really wants her kids to be strong in the gospel and that's what keeps her going.  My heart just went out to her.  Hermana Valdez told me there's some stuff going on between them, like maybe her husband had an affair, but we don't know for sure.   As she was crying, he didn't do or say anything.  It was kind of crazy awkward and I'm not really sure how to help them.

I am just learning so much about exactly what I want in a spouse and in my future family.  I want a spouse that's my partner, that loves me for real and is committed to our family. One person can raise a family, but it is not an easy road.  I want someone that's committed to the Lord and committed to covenants.  I just want someone I can always turn to, a best friend to lean on.  I don't want to feel like I'm raising a family by myself.  It just sunk in to me how much every decision counts.  Who I decide to marry will determine my eternity. It's not a decision to take lightly and I want to be 110 percent sure!  My heart goes out to Hermana Infante because she's honestly so great and working so hard with righteous goals, but everyone needs a buddy.  Hermana Valdez and I both wrote her letters and we gave them to her yesterday.  She teared up again and told us that she's been feeling her Savior's love and this was just a confirmation of the words she needed to hear.  My heart!  I realized that we are literally representatives of Jesus Christ.  We're not just here to baptize people or even just to teach.  We're here to stand as representatives of Him to every person, members included, to lift those that need help, to offer comfort, to offer His words.   It is something so beautiful and I just love being here. 

Flor Contreras, she´s the granddaughter of Carlos.  Her mom is less active, but they're slowly coming back. We did her hair like a princess!  She always says "las misioneras" and then she laughs like Boo from Monster's Inc.  Pretty much, she's coming home with me because she is the cutest thing EVER!!


Today we had a meeting with all of the missionaries that arrived with me and the mission president! I got to see all of my MTC buddies! It was so great.  I am so grateful that Heavenly Father always gives me strength to bounce back.  I learned that some of them have been a lot sicker than I was.  It was a good reminder to focus on the positive things and how truly blessed I have been since coming to Mexico .. with the language, my health, with my companion, and so many other things!  I need to count my blessings every day.

Hermana Camarillo told us today that we are like lighthouses. There are storms all around us and we have to live through trials.  We have been built strong enough to withstand the storms.  In the middle of the storm, we can still give off light and be a big help to those around us.  We can lift others, even in the middle of our own storms.  That is a beautiful thing!!

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First Doctor Visit

So Thursday this week was fun!  I woke up, we studied, I felt great and was ready to work and we get on the bus, and all of the sudden I think I'm gonna pass out.  I sit on the floor of the bus because there weren't any seats.  People are staring at the crazy American and I'm just trying not to die.  We get to our investigator's house and teach a lesson to Juan Carlos Reynaga.  My head is just spinning!  I´m not sure if I said anything intelligible in Spanish or not.  Then ... they give us ice cream ... and I can't say no to people and so I eat it.  No bueno!!

We left to eat lunch with the Abarca family.  I sit at the table and the smell of food makes me want to vomit, then my vision goes spotty.  Hermana Abarca leads me to their couch and I crash for like an hour.  My companion asks me if I want to call Hermana Camarillo (the wife of the mission president).  I have pride problems and so I say no that I'm good. Then I throw up in their bathroom, but afterward I feel better and so I say well I'm good now ... Let's go work!  This is about the time Dad is thinking I'm pulling a Mom and need to ask for help!

I bought a Sprite on the way to the bus.  About halfway to our next appointment, I'm seriously thinking death is coming and it is seriously angry .. spotty vision, my head is killing me, stomach cramping.  Hermana Valdez tells me I'm super pale and that we're going home. To go home, we catch a taxi. I'm doing okay, window down, breathing deep ... then he hits a patch of speed bumps.  Needless to say, the taxi stops, and I can't open the door fast enough, and then I'm literally throwing up gallons of water all over the inside of the taxi.  I was soaking wet!  It was so nasty and there wasn't anything I could do to help the cab driver.  Hermana Camarillo called us and told us to go straight to the doctor. 

Long and really disgusting story short .. he said I had gastroenteritis and dehydration.  He gave me some drugs and told me I had to stay down for three days days, and that I can't eat anything but white bread, white rice with nothing on it and ham.  No idea how that combination works!  I'm chuckling as we leave the office .. three days .. good luck with that! 

Turns out my body had other ideas. I slept literally all day on Friday. I was trying to study, but I could not stay away for anything.  Saturday was the same thing!  I just felt weak and nasty!  You know how Satan likes to creep on in during your weak moments?  I started thinking about how if I was home mom would make me noodles and dirty water and rub my head.  It was weird, but I just got so homesick .. on top of being really sick .. I just wanted y'all bad!  But then, I started reading my yellow service book. I read some old letters and I remembered how important my call is.  I remembered that the last person I'm here for is myself.  

I had to say some pretty heartfelt prayers about getting my mind on track.  I started to feel that this is my special time with the Lord. I'm never going to have this time again.  He has given everything for me, I think I can man up and give Him everything I have for 18 months .. and a little sickness is not going to bring me down!  I know that I can serve more, love more, be a better companion, all of these things. I just want Him to be proud of me.  

I'm all healed now, so no worries!  There's a couple of Hermanas that ended up in the hospital with the same kind of stuff, so it could be way worse!

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Hermana Valdez

This is my companion and trainer -- Hermana Valdez.  My favorite pics are when she give me the "you're crazy" face, but she loves me!!


Hermana Valdez just hit four months in the mission -- We bought a cake to celebrate!


She wrote me a little love note this week -- She is seriously the best!  She has taught me so much and I love her to pieces!!  I even forgave her for writing to me in English!

Did I mention how much I love her?


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Mexico Week 4 -- Colored Pencils and Learning to Love

Hola to my favorite people in the world!!  I can't believe I've already been here a month! Totally blows my mind!

So I had my first heartbreak this week.  I've never had a bad breakup.  I had a good dad growing up and now.  The first man in my life broke my heart.  Ouch!  We had a lesson with Carlos this week and we taught the Atonement.  I always feel the strongest spirit in their home, and so of course I was a flippin baby throughout the whole thing, but the words honestly flew out of my mouth.  My testimony of the Savior is so strong and I think the hardest part is that I saw it in his face a few times.  I saw his face change but then he gets all gruff again.  This week in the Book of Mormon I was reading about King Noah. He started to feel the Spirit, the truth of what Abinadi was saying, and he was going to let him go, but the priests ¨stirred him up unto anger¨ ... Carlos is a bit like King Noah.  I know he feels it, and I know he's unhappy.  I know how much he needs his Savior.  He says all the right things, but at the end of the day, he's not willing to start making the little changes.  Leaving that lesson was flippin hard.  I feel so much love for him and I feel like I promised him before this life.  Imm pretty sure the whole Contreras family teased me before this life about coming to their mission and having to figure out Spanish but they promised to help me out!  I feel like Carlos was just as hard headed before this life too but on the other team!   Haha!  Anywho, as we left, I literally felt terrible.  I felt like I missed a prompting, or maybe we could have planned or practiced more before, or maybe if I wasn't tired that night, or maybe if we had been more diligent during the day, cosas asi.  As we were waiting for the bus, I had this peace come over me.  I literally heard in my head, ¨Lex, I am so proud of you. He's just not ready yet, be patient and keep loving.  I promise I've prepared people for you.¨

It wasn't really until the next morning during studies that the lesson sunk in for me.  I understand the tiniest bit of what the Savior experienced.  People reject Him and His powerful love all the time.  He weeps.  He truly hurts every time this happens.  He understands and I'm so grateful that I get to feel a portion of His love for other people.  I want to stand proxy for Him.  I want to have an impact in people's lives.  I want to have this kind of love for every person here.  I want to be perfectly diligent and obedient.  Most of all, I just want to testify and help people understand His love.  I'm reading Jesus the Christ right now and there's a part where it talks about the apostles.  They were imperfect, they didn't understand everything, in fact they were children.  We're all children.  However, the best thing about children is that they're willing to learn.  They're trying to understand, and they're willing to change and follow.  It's kind of crazy looking back on this experience because I can feel how crazy it was that I let so many discouraging thoughts into my head.  We really have to watch our thoughts!  Satan is tricky!  I promise! 

So I'm using my journal to write this letter and it's kind of funny how everything is in Spanglish!  Haha!!  I'm really getting a kick out of this! 

We also had a lesson with Saira this week.  This is her basset hound and I love him.  I think I might be switching loyalties from labs to basset hounds.  Her mom had surgery and has been in the hospital.  Saira is taking care of her.  She was different that day, not as feisty, not as demanding, more just taking it all in and asking lots of questions.  Saira told us that her mom has cancer and is preparing to die and that all of this just scares her.  So many times in that lesson I just felt the Spirit so strong and then bore testimony.  Saira commented on how beautiful my Spanish has become so quickly, but I just told her that there are things her Heavenly Father wants her to know and so He gives me the words. She reading the Book of Mormon too.  It blows my mind to watch the Savior work in people's lives. I love Saira ... I really just love her. I want to help her increase her faith. 

Fun fact ... We were talking with people in the street and a man read my palms!  Apparently I'm very independent or something like that. I don't know...haha!

I've been reading the Liahona and the scriptures in Spanish during our language time.  I was reading an article about the Savior.  There was a section that talked about the word Atonement.  In Spanish it's not in the Bible at all.  In English, it was in there somewhere between one and three times.  In the Book of Mormon, the word Atonement appears almost 30 times!!  When they talk about plain and precious truths being taken from the Bible...ding ding ding.  This word is so crucial!!  It's everything, and it somehow was taken out of the Bible. My mind was blown.  I have a goal to read the Book of Mormon six times on my mission and the Bible from start to finish once. 

Now for the Reynaga family. In all honesty, I didn't have the strongest love for them the past couple of weeks.  Pedro Reynaga is in his fifties or sixties, I think.  He is less active and always asks the most bizarre questions, but he's been struggling in his faith lately.  His daughter is also less active and has so many kids that are always all over the place.  Then there's Juan Carlos.  He's pretty much all there but he had an embolism and there a few effects.  He's pretty religious, always wears his cross, but he wasn't understanding that there was only one true church.  I was honestly wondering why we hadn't left him.  Not to mention, I can't understand a word either of them says.  He changes his reason all the time for not wanting baptism.  He wasn't progressing, and then ... he started reading the Book of Mormon, and he's retaining what he's reading. 

We arrived at their house for a lesson this week and Juan Carlos tells us that he wants to be baptized.  He wants to buy his own clothes and everything.  His baptism is the 29th of March!  He really touched my heart.  Pedro is changing too.  The past couple of lessons, his questions have been changing and this week he told us he's confident in his testimony. My love is growing!  I was challenged to gain a testimony of my mission call.  I believe I'm supposed to be here but I don't have an unshakable knowledge yet.  This lesson was a time when I felt the Spirit so strongly that I'm helping people here, that the Lord is using me!  

Then comes Sunday ... all morning I had this thought that I needed to bring my colored pencils.  I was thinking what the heck, my bag is heavy enough with scriptures, why do I need my colored pencils?!  Anywho, I brought them.  We got to church and Pedro and Juan Carlos are sitting in the back, but two of the kids are sitting in the front row.  Guess who was pretty rowdy during the sacrament?  Hahaha!  Hermana Valdez and I moved to sit with them after the sacrament and then they colored so reverently!  Isn't the Spirit great? They were honestly so impressed with my 24 pack because there were ¨muchos muchos colores!"  Sometimes we really forget how blessed we are. Just the littlest thing we take for granted and even expect them.  After they colored, they both sat and read my scriptures.  Roxton is 9 and Elisa is 8.  Literally my heart melted.  Kids are so close to our Heavenly Father.  I feel the pure, simple love that Jesus has for kids.  In sacrament meeting, the thought came to me that these are some of the kids waiting for me.  We want to teach them if their mom gives us permission.  I am so excited, especially if they come to their uncle's baptism!  My heart is really opening up to some crazy love! 

I just want to wrap this baby up, one by letting you all know just how much I love you. And secondly, to testify of the Savior. His love is real, I know it.  There are so many distractions, so many thoughts that prevent us from feeling it, but He's always with us. This week I loved the song ¨Gethsemane¨by Kenneth Cope.  In all honesty, we watched the Atonement happen from before we were here.  We felt so much pain, but yet so much gratitude and determination to live this life right.  We wanted to come to the Savior and wipe away His blood, but we couldn't.  But now that we're here, He can come to us.  I just know it with my whole heart. Once we crowd out all the business, we can really feel it. 

I love you all to the moon and back! 

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Words of Wisdom -- From My Mom

One of my favorite prophets is President Hinckley.  He is one of the most optimistic people I have ever seen, and his sweet wife was just as amazing!  Everyone has worries or concerns on a daily basis, and some people even give themselves a little pep talk in the mirror every morning.  Think about that .. what do you think President Hinckley said to himself every day?  He gave us a little hint when he said:

"It isn't as bad as you sometimes think it is.  It all works out.  Don't worry.  I say that to myself every morning.  It will all work out.  If you do your best, it will all work out.  Put your trust in God and move forward with faith and confidence in the future."

Isn't that amazing?  Someone like President Hinckley reminded himself every day that things will work out if you do your best.  Foreign languages are perfected .. School and degrees are completed .. Right marriage partners appear ..  Callings are fulfilled ..  everything works out if your do your best and trust the Lord.

John Bytheway told an analogy once using a football game.  In today's world we often record games or races to watch at a later point in time.  Inevitably, someone or our phone lets it slip who won.  So we are left to watch the game already knowing the final score.  Some of these games can be real exciting when you don't know how it will turn out, but there is much to be learned even when you know the final result.  Bytheway found an old football game from 2002 and started watching it.  At halftime, his team was down by 27 points.  Every time the other team scored, he laughed and laughed because he knew that his team would win the game .. and they did .. the final score was 35 to 34.  Now you most likely won't laugh if Carlos doesn't respond to the lessons, or if Saira doesn't get baptized this year.  There are going to be days and even moments during the days on your mission where you are down and maybe even getting "creamed" by investigators who aren't progressing, or members who are less than helpful, or strangers who are not so nice.  You are in the middle of a tough fight, but it will okay.  The Savior has already won the game.  You know the final score.  You wear the Lord's jersey .. so get you get off the bench every day and you fight.  You fight the good fight because you know these things to be true:

**If God be for us, who can be against us? -- Romans 8:31
**Be still, and know that I am God. -- Psalms 46:10

**There is hope smiling brightly before us!

Keep that focus on the Savior and your heart will be filled with peace .. peace regarding the language .. peace regarding your investigators .. peace for the future.

Love you sugar!

Neighborhood Clean Up

Small acts when multiplied by millions of people ... can transform the world!!


Sometimes you gotta get your hands a little dirty to clean up the neighborhood!  It was so great to see all these people coming out to see what we were doing and chat us up!

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Hermana Casanovas

Early this week we had a third companion for two days! Her name is Hermana Casanovas and she's from Canada! She's been in the field two weeks and only spent 10 days in the MTC. 

We were studying in the morning and she had a moment. She was super talkative before her mission, always bore her testimony at church, worked a lot with the youth, but now she feels frustrated because she feels like she doesn't have her personality anymore. Ring a bell to anyone?? 

Haha! I love feeling like I can help and so that morning was so special to me. I love her and understood exactly how she is feeling!  Best part is, I can tell her that the language will come and she is going to rock it!  She was a blast to have with us for two days! 

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Words of Wisdom -- From My Uncle

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor E. FranklMan's Search for Meaning

Viktor Frankl was held in a concentration camp for over three years.  During that time, his wife, mother and brother died.  That adds a lot of perspective to a quote about choosing your attitude in any given set of circumstances.

I love you being on a mission.  I think about when I was a missionary all the time.  When I first got to the mission my trainer had been out 6 weeks.  This was basically one transfer!  When new missionaries came in the next transfer, we became trainers.  It sounds crazy ... and it was crazy.  My mission president was very new, but he quickly realized a very important thing.  The missionaries who had been out over 9 months had developed a culture, and it was not a positive one.  They had become conditioned by the missionaries before them … and the ones before them … and the ones before them.  Rules had become optional.  Picking and choosing who to teach and who to visit was based upon personal opinions, and not the Spirit.  So my mission president moved the majority of these missionaries five hours north.  Only the exceptional missionaries were allowed to stay in the city.  The new missionaries were paired up with new missionaries and they influenced and supported each other in learning how to follow the Spirit.  They no longer had the influence of someone telling them what couldn’t be done.   The younger missionaries prayed with faith, demonstrated hope and exercised their faith.

The mission President did this for over six months … and amazing things started happening.  We went from teaching very little and few baptisms to a total explosion.  It was unheard of in this city.  The members started to change their opinions and dinner appointments kicked back in.  People were being baptized in every zone.  Most importantly the missionaries BELIEVED!  They believed in the work. They believed in the people and they believed they were called to SERVE and TEACH!

A common term for a new missionary is green or greenie.  Buddy I have some advice … STAY GREEN!  Stay green your entire mission.  I mean it.  I think Nephi is a great example of someone who was green.  He was young and inexperienced.  All he knew was that the Lord commanded him to do certain things, and the Lord would provide a way.  Under his leadership, his family left Jerusalem, got the plates, returned for wives, built a ship and traveled across the ocean.  None of which his older brothers thought was possible.  The biggest difference is that Nephi had faith, perspective, a good attitude, and he didn’t let others change his mind.  STAY GREEN.

Lehi shared his vision of the tree of life with his family.  Nephi went away and spent time thinking and praying and asking the Lord if it was true.  He was blessed with amazing experiences because of showing initiative and taking responsibility for his own testimony and faith.  His brothers complained, wined, and frankly didn’t try to learn if it was true or what the Lord would have them do.  When Nephi asked if they have prayed or spent time asking God about it, instead of depending on what they did or didn’t understand, they became angry and annoyed.  Nephi never let this deter him.  He knew what the Lord had asked of him and he was always willing to follow the promptings and do the right thing. 

I know you said others have doubted your feelings for Carlos.  You will meet a lot of Carlos’ on your mission and throughout your life.  Stay Green – Be Like Nephi -- and continue on the path the Lord has outlined for you.  Never lose that hope and faith in others.  Your Heavenly Father will bless you with amazing experiences.  I promise you this.  I feel the Spirit so strong when I write this.  You CAN have an amazing mission.  You never really know all of the things that can come from your actions and belief in others.  Be confident in knowing that the Lord can see the big picture.  There are times He will prompt you to help him with a piece or two of the puzzle.  You place those pieces and He will take care of the rest.  Be like Nephi.

Think back on your opportunities to teach Primary.  Being green is a lot like becoming childlike.  Not in the sense of being immature, but in the sense of being open to the Spirit and not requiring proof but moving forward on faith.  Kids rarely give up hope.  They wake up every day and love you and their friends and the world around them.  They don’t remember what frustrated them the day before.  Every single day is filled with the hope that it will be the BEST DAY EVER.  That hope and faith is what allows them to love so openly and freely.

I know how much you love a good animated movie.  Dreamworks put out a movie a few years ago called “The Prince of Egypt” and it told the story of Moses from his birth to receiving the 10 Commandments.   During most of the movie, the Israelites are slaves to the Egyptians.  They have prayed for years to be freed; and the lack of a perceived response from the Lord has caused them to question their own faith.  How can they continue on when the prayers have remained unanswered for so many years?  After they are freed by Moses and are seen marching towards the Red Sea, there is a song that starts to play …

Many nights we've prayed, with no proof anyone could hear.
In our hearts a hopeful song we barely understood.

Now we are not afraid, although we know there's much to fear.
We were moving mountains long before we knew we could.

There can be miracles when you believe.
Though hope is frail; It’s hard to kill.
Who knows what miracles you can achieve, when you believe.
Somehow you will, you will when you believe.

In this time of fear, when prayer so often proved in vain.
Hope seemed like the summer birds, too swiftly flown away.
Yet now I'm standing here, with heart so full I can't explain.
Seeking faith and speaking words I never thought I'd say.

There can be miracles when you believe.
Though hope is frail; It’s hard to kill.
Who knows what miracles you can achieve, when you believe.
Somehow you will, you will when you believe.

One of my favorite lines in this song is “we were moving mountains long before we knew we could” – They did not know they could or even recognize the Lord’s hand in their lives, but He knew.  He knew what they were capable of and He guided them every step of the way.   The miracles came in the Lord’s way and in the Lord’s own time.

I got home from my mission in 2002, so that is 12 years ago.  Here is what is so great about the lessons you learn as a missionary.  Even though I haven’t been a missionary for a long time, these lessons continue to teach me today.  Right now I serve with the Young Men.  There are plenty of people who have been YM Leaders for a lot longer than I have.  They may have lost hope in some of these young men.  Some leaders may say it’s a waste of time to do this or that.  Those who have done this calling before me have their own ideas about how things should be done in this ward.  There can be a fine line between listening to more experienced people and ignoring your feelings and promptings.  I know I was called here for a reason.  I know I am being prompted to do certain things and I know that if I listen to the Lord, great things will happen.  Each of us struggle with this very basic concept … To see people the way God sees them.  To not be influenced by the world says or thinks is cool.  To take immediate action when the Lord asks us to do something.  To believe in ourselves and our ability to receive inspiration.  To truly know that we can make a difference in the lives of others.  I know that if we put our trust in the Lord, strive daily to have hope in those around us, and seek to see others as God does … amazing things will be put in our path.  There can and will be miracles if we believe!