Monday, November 23, 2015

Happy Happy Thanksgiving!

     There are no words to express my gratitude today. I absolutely love Thanksgiving, the spirit of it, the memories and traditions associated with it, the food, the people.. This is my first Thanksgiving I have ever spent away from home, and I have to say it is the Thanksgiving I have been the most thankful. That may seem backwards.. Don't get me wrong, saying I missed my family dearly would be a huge understatement. I miss them especially today, BUT I am absolutely overcome with gratitude for them and for my mission. If I was home right now, I would be having so fun and creating memories and eating amazing food by all the incredible cooks I am BLESSED to have in my family, but I would not filled with this amazing appreciation for my family and my mission. I wouldn't be here at all. Today, I am thankful for all of the love and prayers and sweet words being sent my way. I am thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice for us. I am thankful for my mission, this precious precious time that is changing me and my life and my family for the better. I am overcome with gratitude for my family. I am thankful for the scriptures that teach us to.. 

"Live in thanksgiving daily." Alma 34:38

The scriptures teach us that..

"He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious." D&C 78:19

The scriptures also teach that..

Mosiah 2:19-25 
19 O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!

 20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
 21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
 22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
 23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
 25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.
     I absolutely love this. Even if we were to render all the thanks and praise which our whole souls have power to posses and serve him with all of our whole souls, we are STILL indebted to Him because He was the one that created us. We owe Him EVERYTHING. There is no way to repay Him, but we CAN show our GRATITUDE by keeping His commandments.
     Today, Thanksgiving, is our Pday! We had cinnamon rolls for breakfast and decorated the Visitors' Center for Christmas with all of the Sisters and Senior Couples. It was so fun! Tonight we are going to dinner at a members home, the Simpsons. They are empty-nesters and HILARIOUS and she is a fabulous cook (BONUS). I love Thanksgiving. 
     I have so much to write about! 
     Some fun things:
- Everyone that lives here who is foreign, is really foreign. It's not like their great great grandparents moved here years ago. They themselves came from their home country to California.. so the food is totally authentic and AMAZING. This week alone I had homemade Albanian and Philipino food. Yes.
- California oranges have changed my life. Picking them fresh off the tree and peeling them then and there..MMHHH there's nothing like it. 
- I FINALLY went to Chipotle after crying every time I drove past it for two months. I wanted to make my family super jealous but then my Momma told me they were building one in Pocatello... where they will quickly get to know my family
- We got a new sister in the VC! So I am officially not the new-b anymore 0:)
- Our spiritual morning studies now have some SERIOUS Latino theme music and often a vocalist to go with it. (My neighbor blasts and sings it at 8 idea..) 
- Elder Larry R Lawrence is coming to speak to us in December! Exciting! He gave an amazing talk this last conference, "What Lack I Yet"
      We had a special visit from Salt Lake headquarters last week that prepared us for this Christmas season! We got to see the new (not-yet-released) Christmas Initiative Video!! The theme last year was "He is the Gift." I have no idea if I am supposed to write this but "A Savior Is Born" is the new theme. The video associated with this is absolutely unreal. The church is INCREDIBLE. We are SO excited to show the video here at the Visitors' Center and remind people what Christmas is all about, the Savior. I can't wait for you to see the video and share it on social media..MISSIONARY WORK 0:) 
     I finished the Book of Mormon and began reading the New Testament. I still study the Book of Mormon a little, but I am focusing on the New Testament. I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but I am just being honest. I have felt very different reading the New Testament. It is BEAUTIFUL and POWERFUL and is a true witness of the Savior and His ministry. But, there is a power and Spirit about the Book of Mormon that you can't find anywhere else. I New Testament brings the Spirit and testifies of truth, but I have truly felt a notice-able loss of the Spirit in my studies. I used to get so excited to keep reading the Book of Mormon and study it and I would miss is when I wasn't reading it. I was sad when I had to put it down. I have not felt that same Spirit or desire with the New Testament. I dont mean this to come across the wrong way, I just want to testify of the power of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is true. I know it from my CORE. I love the Book of Mormon and hold it so dear to my heart.
     So now, about my people!! :) Its been almost two weeks so a lot has happened!
     Ace is one of our recent converts. He is from Hong-Kong. We were teaching him about tithing and in his broken english he said, "I wish I paid tithing because that would mean that I had a job." Haha I just loved this because it shows his sincere desire to be obedient.
     Roslyn had a baptismal date for this Saturday, but she broke her foot a few days ago and her mom is sick in the hospital. Sorry, let me clarify. Roslyn did not break her foot. Satan broke her foot. Satan works so hard on these people who have chosen to follow the Savior and be baptized. She is taking a break to heal and she wont be getting baptized this weekend. But she said to us, "I know the adversary is working against me, but that doesn't effect my faith at all. I want to pick back up right where we left off, with baptism." So we are disappointed, but keep praying for her and TRUST in the Lord's timing. 
     Paradize said yes to baptism!!!! We planned a very special lesson to have with him up at the Visitors' Center where we showed him Finding Faith in Christ, which is all about Christ's miracles. Then we taught him the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Spirit was so strong. The Spirit told me to ask him to be baptized and I said, "Paradize, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and--" and he totally cuts me off and goes, "YES!!" haha I was like, "Oh my goodness that's great Paradize, will you get baptized?" And he goes, "YES! WHEN?" I was 1/2 giggling 1/2 crying. It was the sweetest thing. He was so happy and excited. The Spirit was so strong. I was overcome with joy. We set a date for December 12! THEN, we went over a few days later to continue teaching him and his grandma FREAKED out at us. He lives with her and she is a psycho less-active. It's not the kind of less-active that's like, "oh I stopped going to church because of work," it's like the crazy, make-up-false-doctrine kind of less active. She sat there and screamed at us for 15 minutes, accusing us of manipulating him and going behind her back to ask him to get baptized and he only said yes because you are just two pretty, young girls and there is no way in heck he is getting baptized any time soon. She said some other things that were extremely hurtful and offensive to the Spirit. All three of us (Me, Sister Harper, and Paradize) kept trying to get a word in and calmly explain ourselves and apologize, but it was to no avail. I was sobbing. We calmly stood up and apologized kindly through her screams and my tears and left. That sorrow and longing and hurt was so painful. We just hugged and cried without words. We dropped our plans for the rest of the night and drove straight to the temple. We knew that we would receive peace and comfort there that we would not receive anywhere else. We were right. We drove and the second it was in our sights, we could feel a literal burden lift off our shoulders. As we walked the grounds and sat on the temple, looking at the view, I could feel Heavenly Father wrap His arms around me and tell me everything was going to be okay. 
     I learned so many things from this experience. When she began to yell and scream, I could physically feel the Spirit leave. My mind was racing and I was filled with confusion. I learned that God is not a God of confusion. I learned to turn the experience around and use it to help me better understand the Atonement. This is what Christ faced every single day when he was here on the earth. Being yelled at and accused gave me the SMALLEST glimpse into how He might have felt. I learned that I needed to forgive Beatrice. I don't need to forgive her to her face (we are never going back there again), but I need to forgive her in my heart. Jesus Christ forgave the people who crucified Him in the exact moment when He was on the cross. We began reading Alma 36, but we didnt need to read farther than verse 3:

"And now, O my son Helaman, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day."
     Trust in God. The Spirit told me to trust in God. Trust in His timing. Luckily, He is running this thing. We are all in His Hands and He has a plan for each one of us and His children, even Paradize and Beatrice. Trust in God includes trust in his timing. Paradize told us that he wants to continue to learn, so we are going to teach him on Sundays after church, kind of in secret like Alma the Elder haha.
     Ann-Helen passed her baptismal interview and is getting baptized this Sunday!!! We had a powerful lesson with her about her relationship with God. I think I have shared this before but she has trouble feeling that God really is her loving Heavenly Father and understanding that relationship. She has a counselor named Greg who has helped her so much. She trusts him and loves him and turns to him for advice. He is always there for her and tells her that he loves her and would never hurt her. He also gives criticism to help her grow. As she was talking about Greg, the Spirit told me to compare Greg to our Father in Heaven. I was extremely hesitant because I didnt know how it would turn out and I didnt WANT to compare Greg to Heavenly Father, but the Spirit told me again. So, I went for it. I kindly told Ann-Helen to think about how much Greg loves her, and she nods. Then I told her that Heavenly Father loves her way more. I asked her if she believes Greg would never hurt her. She quickly confirmed. I told her that before Heavenly Father sent her to earth, He promised her that He would never hurt her. As the conversation went on, she began to cry. She said, "I know what you are saying is true." I told her that it wasn't what I was saying, it was Heavenly Father! It was the most beautiful experience and confirmed my testimony of our relationship with our Father in Heaven. I love this quote as it has enhanced my understanding of our relationship with God:

 "Of all the terms of Diety, He has asked us to call Him Father." Elder Holland
      Despite the disappointments this week, the Lord never ceases to work MIRACLES. There are miracles happening every single day here in San Leandro. We ran into SEVEN people this week whose hearts are completely open and ready for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I will give a few examples. We got a referral from a member of a guy who asked if the missionaries could come over because he was ready for Jesus in his life. We stopped by and set up a return appointment. We went to a former investigator and he said he knew we would come and he wants to go back to church. We got a referral from a sister at the VC of a man from Ethiopia and we stopped by his house and he was so open and kind and told us that he was so excited to come to church. We got another referral from an elder of a man who had just moved here and we called him and told him it was the missionaries and he was SO happy and asked for the address of the church because he wanted to come this Sunday. Then the most beautiful miracle. We finally got around to going back to see a lady who we met a while ago, her name is Kayla. Before we went in, I prayed that we would have an opportunity and situation to teach and that the Spirit would be there, because a lot of times with an informal lesson it is really loud and chaotic and we just needed a peaceful situation to TEACH. We walked in and everyone was sitting around on the couches calmly, almost like they were in the middle of their own lesson. We sat down and began talking and teaching. They are from Belize! It was going really well and the husband told us a story where he left his body and Jesus gave him a second chance. He told us that his life hasnt been the same ever since and he testified to us of Jesus Christ and the afterlife and keeping the commandments. Then we decided to read Alma 36 with him about Alma the Younger's conversion story, which was like identical to this man's story. The Spirit was so strong as we went around and read with prayers in our hearts for these special people. When we finished, no one was speaking for a minute. He looked up at us and goes, "I know this book is true. It is from God."OH MY HEART. I was able to tearfully testify to him that the book was indeed true and that it was indeed from God. The joy and light that filled his eyes was indescribably beautiful. He was so happy. I have never been more excited or grateful or happy in my life. It had literally been like 15 minutes. THE BOOK OF MORMON IS TRUE. Someone who had picked it up 10 minutes earlier for the first time testified to me that it was true, and it is. I love this work. I love being a missionary. The Spirit that accompanies you here is so sacred and beautiful. The Lord places people along ALL of our paths who are ready to hear the gospel. There are miracles occurring in every single one of our lives every day. I am so grateful and humbled to be a part of the miracles here in San Leandro, California.  
     It is my prayer that we can not only be thankful today, but to carry gratitude in our hearts every single day. I know that our Heavenly Father blesses us even more when we are grateful and that being grateful makes us HAPPY. 

"True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will."
President Uchtdorf
 Happy Thanksgiving. I am so grateful for all of you. I love you.
Sister Brinton
This lady we went to contact let us pick these oranges fresh off of her tree. Yes, they are oranges even though they are bright yellow!! They were DELICIOUS!! 
Everyone grows succulents and cactus here because they can't really grow anything else BUT I am okay with that because I LOVE SUCCULENTS.

This is Midu, Sarada's son. I am in LOVE with him.
This is my district after singing at a nursing home.
This lady gave us Perssimons??? I don't low how to spell it but it's a kind of fruit I guess.
I cannot get over this view. I am in Love with this place!

We got to go to Fenton's Creamery! It is the same place at the end of the movie UP where they are eating ice-cream outside. Their ice-cream is AMAZING!
Onion Rings(duh)
Sister Harper
Cookies and Cream Milkshake that I ate in about 3 seconds...
Our thanksgiving tree :))

Sunsets that literally bring actual tears

This temple has my heart.
The sweet Cantillo family from the Phillipenes
Thanksgiving break = cinnamon rolls
My momma sent me my Young Womens medallion and Honor Bee in GOLD which I love. I love having the temple so close to my heart :) And  its a great conversation piece.
More fresh oranges from the lady
Decorating the visitors center for christmas!!

We have too much fun
Sister Tam is from China! She is the coolest.
Spanish sisters, Sister Nistler and Sister Resendiz are the BOMB
Sister Herrara
Sister Diaz LOVE her
The tree in the front part of the VC
Sister Taylor cracks me up
Sister Benosa is from the Phillipenes, literally the sweetest thing.
Sister Obando can never take a normal picture, so I joined in.

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