Monday, December 21, 2015

Count it all JOY

Merry Merry Merry Christmas!!! I love you.
     I am just WEEPING as I begin to write this email home. I am so overcome with joy and gratitude and love this Christmas season!! I have heard people say over and over that Christmas time on the mission is the best. They are totally right. There is nothing like it. There is nothing like being on temple grounds under Christmas lights all day every day and into the night. There is nothing like hearing Christmas music focused on the Savior all day every day. There is nothing like testifying of the meaning and importance of Jesus Christ's birth to people from Bolivia and Iran and Belize and Ethiopia and Hong Kong. I always knew that Christmas was about the Savior like CLEARLY. But wow I have never focused on Him so much and felt so much joy and peace. One of my favorite parts of the Christmas video is when they say "Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice greatly!" What better reason do we have to rejoice than to rejoice over a Savior who came into the world to SAVE us, to change our hearts, to fill us with love and forgiveness toward our fellowmen.
     You are all way too good to me. I have received so many of the sweetest notes and packages and gifts that have made my Christmas season SO special and I feel so loved. THANK YOU to wherever you live & back. 
     We live at the Visitors Center. We added it up and we were there for a total of over 50 hours this week. One day we were there for 14 hours STRAIGHT. It is absolutely exhausting but it is so wonderful. The Spirit and Christmas Spirit there is just so beautiful. I love it. We have joked about just moving our beds into the VC, I mean we only sleep in our apartment so might as well! Salt Lake (our headquarters) called and told us that our VC has had the most referrals this Christmas season out of all the Visitors' Centers! WHOO HOOO!!! We are working so hard for it! One thing that we constantly pray for and keep in mind is our goal of 400 baptisms! Every thing we are doing now at the Visitors Center is affecting next year! These referrals will turn into baptisms in 2016! It doesn't start January of 2016, it starts today!! I love it. I love it. I love it. I also love rotating companions because it is practically like I have 25 companions! The Sisters I serve with are incredible. I have made some lifelong friends here. 
     I was so happy I finally got to be a part of the Bowen Family's Christmas traditions (family on my Mom's side). They live here in California and come up to the lights on Temple Hill every year, so it was SO wonderful to run into them. They are the SWEETEST family and it made my day! They even got to sit in on a tour and see what I get to do every day, bear my testimony of the Savior!! I was 1/2 crying because of them 1/2 crying because of the Spirit :)
     Last year was the first year Sarada celebrated Christmas and she was in a Women's shelter where they provided Christmas for her and her sweetest family. This year she is in a home and cannot provide a Christmas for her kids, not unlike millions of people that live only blocks from each of us. Her ward provided a Christmas for her and we got to deliver it! I had complete butterflies driving to her home and tears while standing at the door singing, waiting for them to answer. Her eyes welled with tears and her children jumped and giggled with excitement. There are few words to describe the joy I felt that night. My issues and my presents and my priorities were FAR from my mind. Seeing these people with such gratitude was just the most powerful thing. We could have given them a can of soup and they would be crying with happiness. Experiences like this change your perspective. Suddenly, you dont care about all the little things that used to bug you. You stop complaining because you feel like an IDIOT for ever even THINKING about complaining about something so minute. I love Sarada and her family with my whole heart and my children will know them by name. 
     I get to face time my family on THURSDAY, CHRISTMAS EVE because my sweet hard-working Daddie is working on Christmas Day. I am so excited I could DIE. One of my MANY expectations is him telling some of his infamous jokes. I miss him
     So weekly planning was short this week because we have a grand total of ONE hour in our area this week. ONE hour. one. So we prayed our little hearts out to our Father in Heaven asking Him what to do with this one precious hour. I was filled with unexpected sorrow as I prayed for each of these special angels in San Leandro that I am leaving next week. I love them with my whole heart. I love them as if they are my own family. They ARE my family. The Elders are going to feel like they have 2 mothers because we have long drawn out detailed instructions of what to do and FULL backgrounds and life histories of all of our people haha. Its hard to describe but you feel like you are leaving your children!!! You want them to know all the details and you want them to love your investigators as much as you do, after everything you have been through and everything you have taught them and how FAR they have come. 
     I had a beautiful spiritual experience I would love to share. This was very powerful to me and strengthened my testimony so much. The Spirit testified to me that this transfer was from Heavenly Father. So, we can only give our area half of our time because of the Visitors Center. Our investigators are so ready for baptism (Roslyn, Paradize, Lucia, Teddy, Sang) that they need FULL attention. Not 50%. So the Lord let us prepare them, right up to the point of baptism, and now that they are committed and ready, the Elders will baptize them and take care of them FULL TIME. Our investigators deserve full time love and attention and we can't give that to them. I am so grateful for the TINY role I was able to play in these beautiful people's lives. We did our part, and now we are moving on to new things. I felt the Spirit kindly and comfortingly tell me that I did my part, that it is in the Lord's hands, and that He would take care of my investigators. It was a beautiful experience that I will hold dear to my heart throughout the rest of my mission. It will carry me through. I know the Lord is involved with every single detail of each one of our lives.
     I love change. It's hard to explain, but I always have. Dealing with change has always come easy to me. I know it is a gift from Heavenly Father. I love meeting new people and going to new places and having new experiences. I love learning and growing. As much as I LOVE San Leandro and Sister Harper, I am so excited for this new change and new step in my mission! If I have already learned and grown so much, I cant imagine how much MORE I can learn and grow. I am so grateful for these changes and experiences!!!!! 
     This was the best week of my mission numbers wise. Numbers means how many lessons, new investigators, referrals contacted, ect. This may seem backwards because we only had one night in our area AND we found out that we had the night off about 3 hours before. So we set up all of our lessons for the day of. The reason it seems backwards is BECAUSE IT IS. We prayed our hearts out and went forward in faith and the Lord blessed us so much. We taught 7 lessons and got 2 new investigators and contacted 4 referrals. This is what happens when you pray to the Lord in faith and say, "okay we have one night in our area. PLEASE help us use our time wisely. PLEASE guide us to who is ready. PLEASE help everyone to be home. But most of all, we pray for the Spirit." We worked right up until the last minute and just sat in the car and cried with gratitude for the day we were able to have. That day happened to be THE ONE DAY it didnt rain all week, and my three month mark. Coincidence? No. There are no coincidences. The one day it didnt rain was the day we were outside all day. Hello. Tender Mercy. That was one of the happiest days of my life so far. 
     My sweet and thoughtful grandparents wrote me a beautiful letter that touched my heart. One point they made came from James 1:2 and that is
"Count it all joy"
      Count it all joy. All of it. Life. Trials. Temptations. Heartache. Loss. Sorrow. Change. Consider it joy. Be grateful for it. For these are the things that help us become like Heavenly Father. These are the things that help us use the Atonement and grow to know our Savior. Not just know about him, but know Him. As a person. Of course this is all easier said than done, but James counsels us to "count it all joy" because it tries our patience and helps us become PERFECT, which means whole or complete or "wanting nothing." We are commanded to be perfect. Trials are the stepping stones that get us there. So we should be grateful for a way to become like the Savior. When you come across a big change in your life or a loss or a trial, count it as joy. "Okay how can I use this experience to learn and grow." Then when we overcome it, we look back and say wow I am grateful I went through that because I learned patience, or trust, or humility, or the importance of prayer, or the sacredness of the sacrament. I can truly count that all as joy.
     Merry Merry Christmas! I hope you are so so happy. I hope you feel the JOY that comes with celebrating the birth of the Savior!!! Spend time with your family. Drink hot chocolate. Wear Christmas socks. Listen to music. Enjoy the snow I MISS IT. Watch ELF. Snuggle. I love it. I love all of it. Sending my love and best Christmas wishes from rainy but happy California.
Sister Brinton
Christmas for Sarada and her family
Akashana is an angel.
district meeting
The Assistants being Santa
the elders brought us a pie!!

gingerbread house and popcorn!!

shishkabobbing chicken!!!!

The Bowens came to visit!!!!
Sister Taylor, Housely, Resendiz, Nistler, Diaz, Harper, Herrera, Fetzer, Benosa, Jorgensen, Wasson, Obando, Chiang
Chipotle 0:)

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