Ok, so I tend to be a little.........doubtful? when I read the scriptures sometimes.
When I read stories that I've heard a million times before and that I've heard other people talk about a million times before I have this tendency to zone out and think, "Ok, I've learned everything there is to learn about that."
This morning I was reading in Alma ch. 17.
This is the story of Ammon.
I can't even tell you how many times I have heard someone talk about this story as it relates to missionaries.
So as usual I was ready to just skim through it and pat myself on the back for all the pretty colors I outlined the story with.
Oh wait, I didn't have that many.
I just assumed I knew all about it and that was good enough.
How stupid of me.
As I was reading I noticed something new about it:
Ammon is a type and a shadow of the Savior.
When he came to the kingdom he could have had anything the king offerred, but he wanted to be a servant.
He went and took care of the sheep.
When the sheep were scattered and lost he went and found them.
He knew that he could show by his example the power of God and the goodness of the gospel.
When the enemies returned to scatter the sheep again, he left the rest of the servants with the flock and went and took them on, by himself.
He relied totally on his Father in heaven.
He led to flocks to the waters to drink and live.
After taking the flock back to the king, he went and did all the other things the king asked him to do.
He remember and obeyed all the commands he was given.
I was humbled this morning.
There is always something we can learn from the scriptures.
This whole going home soon thing is getting pretty real.
We went to the temple as a mission this week.
That's always a treat.
Except that it was kind of a sad experience for me.
Especially realizing how soon it would be before I was back there, just a few days before heading home.
Then I got my trunky papers, aka flight information and instructions for my final report.
It's gonna be a good one.
Work hard, always.
Do the things you are asked to do.
Obedience is a lot easier once you decide to stop kicking against it and just do it.
It doesn't make life easier, but it makes it easier to make choices.
If that makes any sense.
Good miracles this week, lots of little ones.
Ciara finally got to come to church.
She talked to her sister and her sister let her come because church is always a good thing, at least a good step in the right direction.
We're praying/begging for miracles.
It all depends on our faith.
And according to Elder Holland, to believe is enough.
I was sitting in sacrament meeting, up on the stand.
Rewind: Saturday night, we went to visit our bishop.
Like the good missionary I'm supposed to be I aks what we can do to help.
He asks when the last time was that I spoke in sacament meeting.
I'm sitting on the stand trying to think of what I'm going to talk about.
First off, I was weirdly emotional singing the opening hymn, "Hark, All Ye Nations."
I think it's my favorite missionary song.
I had 18 hours of notice and I am a champion procrastinator as it is.
Even in my personal study I could only get a somewhat vague idea of what I was going to talk about.
All I could think of was one sentence from PMG.
"By revelation, Adam learned of mankind’s proper relationship with God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost; of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; and of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel."
That's it. That's what the gospel is about. Receiving revelation about our relationship with God, the Atonement, and the gospel.
These things are restored to the world as a whole.
Then they are restored to us as individuals.
Christ works one on one.
The war for the sould of men is fought one soul at a time.
That's how much we matter.
We are sent out, by the thousands and ten of thousands, to go two by two and find the one.
GOD IS REAL.
Progress is slow with our people.
I've resorted to practically begging for miracles and new people to teach.
A few weeks ago I was able to meet up with Sara's companion, Sister Crosby's Mom (got that??) It was great to have that connection with our daughters. They are wonderful and doing great things!! We love their example and their willingness to give up part of their young adult life to serve. And, we loved sharing that we both have 2 kids serving at the same time. Her son just left this week. It's a difficult time as a parent to lose so much contact with your child. However, you feel the Lords love as they learn to serve even though you miss them terribly!
As Sara's return approaches it is such a flood of emotion!! I remember a year ago, Cindy Balmforth (Sara's first companions Mom) was emailing me with encouragement as her daughter Katee was about to return home. She also had a son serving at the same time. The connections that we have as Mother's binds us to each other, our kids and the gospel. The Lord blesses us in so many little ways! At the time I remember thinking, Sara will never make it home. Well, it's here and it's going to be a great reunion!
Sister Sara Chronister is coming home May 29th. She will deliver her Homecoming address on June 9th at 11:00 am at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on 6150 E. Fairmount Drive, Tucson, AZ.
If you're planning to come and/or need more information, please be in touch firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to all the support you have given me and my daughter! Michelle Ballantyne
Well folks, it's that time. It happens to every missionary.
Final transfer call.
I am staying in Happy Valley and will be training a new missionary.
More Chronic posterity.
Crosby is off to Tacoma (which, if anyone cares, has now expanded so much with the massive influx of missionaries that they have split it into 2 zones) to the Highland Hills ward where she will be the first set of sisters there in a couple years and will be serving with 2 other sets of elders. You read that correctly: 6 missionaries in 1 ward.
That's my kid.
Chronic and the Cheerleader. Gotta say bye to it tomorrow. It's been fun.
There are some really crazy things happening with missions, specifically this one. Actually, being out here in China I don't hear much of what's going on in the rest of the mission. Ha, President called us this week. He asked how I would feel about training again my last transfer. Some missionaries are ok with it, some are not. I was ok with it. Anyways, he told Crosby he had this sinking feeling that she would be closer to Tacoma this week. That didn't give us much of a hint though since pretty everything is closer to Tacoma than we are.
I've had this cool epiphany this week about God.
In Revelation, John is writing about the things that he is supposed to tell these 7 churches. Each one is a specific message to them from the Lord, and for each one He gives a different description of Himself (i.e. he who holds the seven stars, he who is the first and the last, that which was dead and is alive). What is fascinating to me is that just because the Lord gives a different description doesn't make Him any less God. We all have different experiences and different perceptions of God. Why? Because we are different. One day we will have the whole picture, but for now we get little bits at a time. It just all matters on where we are at spiritually. I think of the verses where the Lord is talking about the destruction that comes because the people are wicked and He says that in all of these things, His hand is stretched out still. There are two ways to look at that. Either His hand is stretched out to bring punishment to those who refuse to repent or to offer a hand to those who are willing to turn and reach out for Him. His hand is stretched out still. This carries into the tree of life as well, just to continue that idea from last week. I don't know what the tree of life looks like. I like lots of trees, how could I pick just one that would be THE tree of life? I don't have to. The tree itself is huge and has a lot of different sides and parts. One part might be an evergreen, another might be a cactus (technically not a tree, but just go with it) and another might be one of those that you see in the beginning of the Lord of the Rings movie where Frodo is sitting in the branches reading a book. It's still the tree of life. The requirements to get there are still the same. But we all have different perceptions of paradise. That's cool.
The work is chugging along. I love teaching and I love feeling the Spirit.
I'm going all out, guns blazing these last few weeks.
I've always really loved trees and big green things.
Good thing I grew up in Arizona.
And then came on my mission to Washington.
I'm not even really sure what it is about a tree, but I just love the story of working toward this amazing goal and striving and working so hard and then at the end falling down at the tree, partaking of the fruit, and enjoying rest. You know, rest isn't a bad thing. Even God rested on the seventh day. We can rest from our labors too. When it's the right time. I'll rest when I'm dead.
-the gospel is part of the blueprint that anchors us to the foundation of Christ.
-renewing the call for a return to virtue
-the Lord WANTS to forgive and He wants us to understand His willingness to forgive
-priesthood power: to bless, sanctify, and purify us
-most often the love of God is felt through the simple actor obedience
-we are under covenant to lift up those in need and to stand as witnesses of Him
-peace is the gift of God--an abiding deep happiness
-it takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the LIGHT.
-start where you are, turn your heart to The Lord, walk in the light
-belief is the first step toward conviction
Great, grand stuff. I love conference as a missionary because every applies. It's easy to see the ways that these things are useful for your life and for the lives of those that you are teaching. +1 for being a missionary.
Things with the work are going well. We are seeing some pretty cool things happening with a family that isn't super active and one of the boys isn't a member. When we first started seeing them he wouldn't talk to us at all. Now he actually declines to join games on Xbox live to listen to the things that we teach and to listen to general conference. That's pretty cool for a 15 year old kid. The gospel, the light of Christ does absolute wonders in the lives of every human soul. There's nothing quite like it.
Take a minute to go and review some things from conference. It's amazing what you'll miss the first time and catch a second time.
Crosby and I sang in sacrament meeting. I'm turning into a regular performer here on the mish.
Not really, I still feel super uncomfortable doing it, and I look like I'm uncomfortable too.
One of the YW mentioned that to me today. Awkward. Some things never change.
Despite my awkward tendencies though, I pulled through and the Spirit provided the needed boost to really carry the message.
I know that my Redeemer lives.
Easter is a fantastic holiday.
This was an interesting week for me. I have started doing a lot of pondering. It's now a regular occurrance for Crosby to come in at night and I'm laying on my bed, staring off into space and she asks, "Doing some deep thinking?" Yes. Yes, I am. For the most part it's not about in anything in particular. Just normal "end of something big" contemplation. I realized that I have been blessed with a lot of gifts while I have been on my mission. I don't say that in a "look at how cool I am cause God gave me all these cool gifts" but very humbly, I am grateful for the ways God has chosen to bless me. One of my fears is to lose those gifts when I come home and am released. I frantically write down everything that I study and hear, trying to ink it into my brain. I don't want to lose what I've gained. I don't want to go back to what I was before. I want to grow and progress from here.
The good news is that I can.
These things are not just promised to missionaries. God doesn't just give us things for a time and take them away. If we want them, He allows us to keep them. IF we want them. IF we work for them. Salvation, exaltation, is not an easy thing to obtain.
"Eternal life. It hurts to get there. But it's the only way to get there."
"The path tho salvation has always, one way or another, led through Gethsemane."
Nothing is unattainable for us. NOTHING. As long as we "look unto [Christ] in every thought. Doubt not, fear not."
In other good news, we have had some really sunny days, in which I actually heard from the mouth of Baby Crosby that it was "hot." It was 60 degrees. And I got a sunburn while we were out tracting, but it was all worth it becuase we met a dog named Jessie that followed us for a couple of miles and kept us company. It was sad to leave her behind when we had to go.
Have a blessed week everyone. Work hard at whatever you do.
It was an experience that I never thought I would have, but it happened. It was real.
The Tangaro family was an awesome family that I worked with in Steilacoom.
The parents were members, just really inactive, and four of their kids were not baptized.
By the grace of God we were somehow able to meet them, bring them to church, teach them, and see them all baptized last summer.
You probably remember the stories/pictures. If not, that's ok.
The parents were endowed about a month ago and this weekend they all went to the temple and were sealed to each other as a family.
I was incredibly blessed to be able to go.
A member from our ward in Sequim (shout out to Sister Oliver and Sister Peet) heard we were trying to get to the temple and volunteered to take us.
Kingston Ferry to Edmonds. Seattle to Bainbridge on the way back. GORGEOUS.
As we pulled up we could see some people outside taking pictures. I looked closer and realized,
"THAT'S MY FAMILY!!"
We pulled around and I jumped out and ran and gave them all huge hugs. It was so good to see them.
Basically it was a really surreal experience. It's something you always hope will happen, but you're never completely sure until you're sitting in a room full of people you love seeing a small family all in white being sealed together for time and eternity. Few things really measure up to that.
And I may have teared up a little. Just a bit though.
I mostly just smiled.
The work is coming along here in Sequim.
We've spent a lot of time finding this week. Lots of tracting which, in these parts, mostly means walking and occasionally coming across a house. For the most part people are nice, and Baby Crosby is really funny so we keep ourselves entertained.
I have this dream of buying 25 acres of land out here and building a 20x20 house, growing hay, and keeping chickens, pigs, goats, and a donkey (they're very protective animals, keep the cougars away) and growing my own garden. Basically, be off the grid, if at all possible. I shared this with a recent convert and she handed me a book called "Tiny Homes" all about people who have downsized and live in, you guessed it, tiny homes. I was giddy.
I'm trying to think of some pearls of wisdom to share with you (coughcoughnataliecoughcough) since some people actually still read these letters.
The other day Crosby was talking about how she had a hard time when she first got here, but what really helped her stay was how much I loved my mission and being a missionary.
That made me so happy.
If there was one thing I would want her to understand, it's that. Your mission will change you for the eternal good if you love it and if you let it and if you learn from it.
Happy Valley. In other words, I'm staying. So is Baby Crosby.
Ha. Everyone calls her that in my emails to me.
She doesn't know that yet. But she'll get a kick out of it.
I want to say something about fasting really quick.
I still don't understand it.
It's something that is beyond me exactly how it works, I just know that it does.
Sort of like the Atonement, only the Atonement I understand even less than fasting.
I have learned over the past few months though that fasting really works.
I didn't really like it for a while. I think it's because I never saw how powerful it can be. Now I've seen it.
Anytime you feel a prompting to fast, do it. I wasn't planning to this week, and I'm not trying to get all Pharisee up in here, but when I felt prompted to fast I did it and I don't regret it one bit. We feel closer to God and He is then able to bless us with more revelation and guidance.
We had stake conference this weekend. The stake president gave a great talk about one thing we can do to better receive revelation:
It's more than just turning away from our sins and bad habits.
It's turning towards God.
We had a mission-wide challenge this week to have 75% of our lessons with investigators with a member present.
We didn't quite make it, but it was a lot better than the past few weeks. Why? We tried to get memebers there.
We are taking laurels tracting with us.
Members are taking us out to go follow up with people.
We are visiting with members more.
And it pays off.
The more you see members, the more they want to help you.
We have been so blessed here. Chirstlike people abound and their desires to spread the gospel are incredible.
End of the week, we had 7 referrals. Not sure how it goes in other places around the world, but usually 2 or 3 is good here.
Seven. 7. Siete.
Including one that was a phone call at 8 in the morning letting us know that they had made an appointment for us that evening with someone.
The gospel is infectious, and as President Weaver said, the coolest thing you will ever hear.
Moral: share the gospel by sharing your friends. Nothing beats that.
This is a labor of love people, so you might as well labor for those you already love. Then you can work on the ones you only like.
We're out in Forks today. Yep. I finally made it here. And the sun is shining.