Monday, June 22, 2015

Mexico Week 66 -- Lord, I Would Follow Thee

Dear sweet family!

I love y’all too much and I keep thanking my Heavenly Father every day for the family that I have!  Can you believe it is already June? 

Let’s get these pictures explained.

The pictures with my companion are in one of my favorite parts of my area! It’s so pretty and open and I just love it! 

This week I went on splits with Hermana Peña and this time we went to her area. There are some CRAZY hills there! Ha! Ha!  It is awesome!!  We really had a good time with some incredibly spiritual lessons. We were crying and working with amazing people and just really good splits. She is an awesome missionary and we made pancakes. She is my new best friend from El Salvador! 

Today we had our Zone activity and played Preach My Gospel Jeopardy!  Ha! Ha!  We’re a little competitive but it was so fun. 

We also visited Hermana Claudia and Naty and we made empanadas! A Columbian speciality!  They were so good and we had a good time. 

 I’m a little sad about Elder L. Tom Perry. We received the message first that he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and that Elder Scott was still in the hospital.  Then the next message came through that Elder Perry died. It feels weird right? Like a member of the family died.  I love them so much. 

This week we visited Hermana Caracosa (her son died on Mother’s Day) and she is really struggling.  She feels like her relationship with God has been destroyed and little by little she’s trying to reconstruct it.  It is so hard when such bad things happen.  You really do feel like your relationship with God has fallen apart.  We talked about prayer and felt the Spirit so strongly, I love her so much and I love being able to focus on just living lifting others. It feels amazing and I just love it. I love loving people. 

We also have been working with Hermana Claudia and Naty. They are progressing so much and went to the ward activity this week and showed up at church by themselves!  We showed up at her house one day this week and she was watching conference videos and taking notes!  We are just working on helping her receive an answer to her prayers. We’re going to really focus on the Book of Mormon and they really do seem like members!  I was thinking about the Book of Mormon and how it really was written for our day.  It talks about materialism and avoiding pride and contention, being humble, being dedicated to the Lord, the importance of family.  We need a strong and firm testimony of the Book of Mormon.  We have to live it and study it personally and as a family. It’s one of the greatest tools we have to protect us and strengthen us.  I have found incredible strength in the words of Book of Mormon prophets and I know the book is true. I know it testifies of Christ and I know my testimony and understanding of the Atonement have increased by reading daily.  We all have to read!! 

We’ve been finding some new people to teach too and we’re working really hard!  I have been learning some hard lessons this week.  My companion and I went to church and it was all good, but since Saturday my companion has been pretty stressed and well mad.  She has said a few things that I don’t think she really means. She kinds of runs way in front of me and pulls her own hair and says we’re just wasting the Lord’s time, nothing good is happening here, etc.  I’ve never experienced anything like it and I’ve never had somebody so angry with me … Not even when we were younger and Mom made the face.  I felt so completely lost and confused, but I’m trying to not let it make me lose my enthusiasm or love for this work.  Being a missionary isn’t just about how many people you can baptize.  It is about helping people, bringing them hope, helping them to feel the love of the Savior, teaching them that living the gospel will bring them happiness and peace.  I’ve just been focusing on feeling the Spirit and not taking what she says to heart.

We left our lunch appointment and she was mad, and so she started saying some angry things and I knew she wanted to fight with someone.  I just tried to sing hymns and tell myself that she was stressed for other things and stuff like that and it was okay. I started talking to people in the street too because that also makes me feel good.  I just didn’t say anything and prayed she would feel the Spirit and calm down.  Well, she said something a little bit stronger and the enthusiasm slipped and the discouragement entered. I started getting watery eyed and started praying out loud in a whisper, “Heavenly Father, I don’t want to fight.  I don’t want to get mad.  I don’t want to get offended.  I don’t want to fight.  Please help me!  Help me to feel love.”   

Immediately, I felt like we should go visit Hermana Castillo. Last time we saw her, she was so sad and stressed out.  I had studied for about a week to find a message that would help her.  I kept thinking about the Lord’s grace.  We went to their house, and her son asked me if I was okay, “Your smile is the same, but your eyes look kind of sad.”  I told him it was all good! Ha!  Ha!  We started to share a message about grace. I felt the Spirit SO MUCH in that lesson. It was incredible. Hermana Castillo started crying and told us that she truly felt like now she understands grace. She started crying more and saying that we are never alone that we can always feel the Lord’s love if we look for it.  I shared my testimony too and I just felt it so strongly inside of me. I know the Lord lives and I know that I am doing things that never would have been possible without the Lord’s help. I could never keep my mouth shut and not fight back.  I could never put off frustration.  I could never forgive and forget so easily if it wasn’t for the Lord and his love.  I know that He is giving me the strength that alone I don’t have.  I thought of the hymn, Lord I Would Follow Thee ... “Pause to help and lift another, finding strength beyond my own. In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can’t see.  To the wounded and the weary, I would show a gentle heart. Savior, may I learn to love thee. Lord, I would follow thee.”

It is so true!  As I shared all of these feelings with her, she kind of looked at me and said, “You know how you can really tell the difference between missionaries that are committed and really converted to this and the ones that just kind of follow the routine?  The committed ones give their whole heart and they study for you and they find what you need and they share it with you.  They are like part of the family.”  I know that she was an answer to my prayer because in that moment I felt the Lord’s love so strongly and He gave me the strength to finish the day. I love Him so much and I love my companion and I know that it’ll all be okay. 

The lesson for me … What an incredible gift I was given to grow up feeling loved my entire life.  I mean really loved for who I am.  Those feelings of love and acceptance just ripple into other feelings of self-worth and confidence.  We all have crazy strong personalities, but we learned to work stuff out, without yelling most of the time and until everyone was okay.  We were taught to look for the positive in every situation.  I came on my mission grateful for my family, but when I come across people who have been treated bad their whole life, I am even more grateful.  I am learning how being a missionary helps prepare you for marriage.  Two people come together from different backgrounds, different family personalities, different ways of doing things, different ways of communicating .. and if you love each other, you continue to work on your relationship.  You work through the differences.  One person isn't right and one person isn't wrong .. it is just different, and you have to work to find the common ground.

Last night I told my companion I loved her and that she is an incredible missionary and we went to bed.  I laid there for a little bit thinking and I remembered a talk that Elder Holland gave a few years ago called, “Like a Broken Vessel” and I couldn’t get the thought out of my head.  This morning I read the talk and then I started crying during my studies because it was seriously perfect.

Elder Holland says, “So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love?” 

**Never lose faith in your Father in Heaven who loves you more than you can comprehend. Never ever doubt that and never harden your heart. 

**Faithfully pursue the time tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. 

**Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. (I think that’s why I’m so addicted to hymns and conference talks lately!). 

**Ask for cherished priesthood blessings. 

**Take the sacrament every week and hold fast to the perfecting promise of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 

**Believe in miracles. 

**If you are the one afflicted or a caregiver to such, try not to be overwhelmed with the size of your task. Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education. 

**For caregivers in your devoted effort to assist with another’s health, do not destroy your own. In all these things be wise. Do not run faster than you have strength. 

**Whatever else you may or may not be able to provide you can offer your prayers and you can give love unfeigned. 

I know that He was talking to me.  In some ways, we are all broken.  Maybe we are broken in a certain area, or maybe we are broken during a difficult time in our life.  We all struggle with things and it is our job to lift and love each other during those periods of brokenness.  I know that my companion suffers from many things and she needs my love.  She needs me to just love, love, love her and pray for her, and then love her some more until she starts to believe it herself.  I know that I need to be careful and take care of myself too. I love Elder Holland. I know that He is a servant of the Lord and I know that the Lord is with me. I feel Him. I feel His love and he is helping me to learn how to love all different kinds of people. 

I can’t wait to see y’all soon and I hope that you’re all happy!  Love you!

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