Friday, August 19, 2016

Thy Faith Hath Made Thee... (1/5/16)

Well, shoot, y'all! This was a big week! My girl D took the plunge! That's right, she got baptized on January 2nd without a hitch! She was smiling ear to ear as she came out of that water. The service went wonderfully. Sister Kohler and I sang "I Know that My Savior Loves Me" with one of the primary kids and we saw some eyes leakin' in the audience. It was a great day. Then, on Sunday, D was 20 minutes late to sacrament meeting (use your imagination to picture how stressed this made me) and got there just in time for her confirmation. That's my favorite part. When those words, "receive the Holy Ghost," are spoken, you can feel the Spirit descending on the whole room. Her faith has made her clean, through Christ. We had 6 investigators at church this week, including lots of D's family (who we will now be teaching) and our new investigator, K! That girl is prepared and seeking for the gospel. She's got a more willing heart and a more enthusiastic mind than I've seen in a while! Her faith has led her through the dark into the light.

This week is transfers, and we weren't expecting to get a call until this morning about who would be staying or going. But to our surprise, we got a call from President Hansen last night. Sister Kohler will be training a new sister in McComb (I'm gonna be a grandma!!). And I am being transferred to Albany, Louisiana to serve as a Sister Training Leader. Once again, use your imagination to picture me sweating profusely and convulsing on the floor. Okay I'm kidding about the convulsing. But not the sweating. There are lots of changes going on in the mission, and I'm gonna be experiencing them in a leadership position. That's humbling. And scary. Not to mention just how weird it will be to leave Mississippi! But I take comfort in the many times Christ said, "Thy faith hath made thee whole" (Matthew 9:22 & Enos 1:8). By whole, he means complete. My faith can make me strong. resilient. capable. peaceful. He can make this weak vessel good enough to do His work. But only if I have the faith to believe he can. His grace and his Spirit do not go where they are not wanted. The good news is, I want it! I need it! I can't do this work or this calling without it!

Thank y'all for your prayers and support. I need them real bad. Like really stinking bad! Catch ya in Louisiana!

Missin' Mississippi already...

Let Us Run with Patience (12/28/15)

There goes 7 months and my first/last Christmas as a missionary! I cannot express enough gratitude to you all for the thoughts and letters and cards and packages and prayers! You make me smile :)

Not a lot of crazy stories this week, besides the 4 tornadoes that supposedly blew through last night. I've just been focusing a lot on becoming. That's what the gospel's all about when we get down to it. I recently put on my wall two phrases: "Another day, another day to become who you want to be," and, "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). Let me tell you, a mission's got its struggles. It can get tough to have a good attitude and to keep motivated and to keep giving it 100%. It can be tough to get yelled at and accused of spreading lies, it can be tough to see people experience doubts and turmoil, and it can be tough to be isolated with one other person for 7 months. It's the hardest to "lay aside...every sin which doth so easily beset [me]." But I take comfort in knowing that I just need to keep running. That I have a million chances to make a choice that will bring me closer to Christ. I can lay down and give up, or I can laugh and learn. I can get weighed down by my weaknesses, or I can turn to the Atonement. I choose. After 7 months, I've learned so much about who God wants me to become. Thank goodness I've got another year to get there! And then, I take comfort in knowing that I've got eternity to progress from there, from grace to grace.

Stay tuned: next week's email will feature D's baptism!

Thank y'all for all your support!

Tender Mercies (12/21/15)

So, I'm really stoked that my Heavenly Father loves me even though I'm pretty dumb most of the time. He loves me in my weakness, in my stupidity, in my sin. And He'll never stop. And that's why He sent me - and you - a Savior. Someone who will not only love us unconditionally, but also help us move forward, give us hope, and let us change. We don't need to worry or lose hope or get stuck because we have Jesus Christ. And that Savior came into this world as a baby, just like you and me. Elder D. Todd Christofferson counseled us to "take time to relax, be at peace, and see this little child in your mind. Do not be too concerned or overwhelmed with what is coming in His life or yours. Instead, take a peaceful moment to contemplate perhaps the most serene moment in the history of the world-- when all of heaven rejoiced with the message 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men' (Luke 2:14)." Take that time, amid all of the crazy schedules, and cooking, and wrapping. Remember our Savior's humble beginning.

I'm so grateful for the other ways that God shows me that He loves me and hears my prayers:

Somehow, we managed to leave our (very expensive) bike rack at a gas station in the hood this week. When we realized this and came back hours later, it was nowhere in sight. We prayed so fervently that God would help us out with fixing our stupid mistake. And He did - He gave us the sweet worker who saw someone fixin' to take it, so she hid the rack for us until we came looking for it. Seems little, but it was huge to us.

Or consider the miracle it is that the grease stain came out after a little girl had lathered herself in margarine and charged at me, wiping her hands all over my new skirt. Or that someone said something so funny that I'm doubled-over laughing during a day that had me down in the dumps. Or some sweet stranger or investigator who we have an amazing lesson with when I need the spirit the most. And most importantly to me, the sweet assurance that my Father loves me, that the Atonement is real, that my service is accepted by Him.

No doubt I'm missing home and family and friends, but tender mercies are all around me. And I'm so grateful for a Savior that never leaves me and is with me every step of the way as I do His work.

Happy Christmas y'all!

There Are Many Yet (12/14/15)

One more week gone, y'all! And this one was one of many plans, and many plans falling through. Many cancelled appointments, many sicknesses, many flaky people. But miraculously, also 8 new investigators, including two families! We haven't been tracting or anything - just looking right in front of us. One we found through an investigator's friend's friend. One we found because she was living in the apartment where a former investigator lived previously. One we met because her sister had given us her address and phone number instead of her own. One, we saw inside a house braiding her daughter's hair and talked to her instead of the lady we were planning on seeing. One was walking her dog down the street when we were getting out of the car to go to a lesson.  And all of these people are willing and excited to learn more about the restored gospel. Isn't that crazy? If you look at our number of lessons this week, it looks disappointing, but if you look at the people whose lives could now be touched, it's amazing! Can you even imagine the flow charts and diagrams God must be working out to put all of these wonderful people in our path? I'm in awe. "For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations... who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it" (D&C 123:12).

Also, the branch Christmas party was a huge hit! Lots of nonmembers came, including D's family! She also came to church and has smoked her last cigarette! We're hoping to get all the interviews and things planned so that she can get baptized! That "dry Mormon" is about to be a wet one!

We've been seeking out more service opportunities recently, and the service highlight of this week was helping out at a fund raiser for the local animal shelter. We got to do face painting for a couple hours, which was way fun! And I got to wear jeans in public - the real reason I loved it so much.

My thoughts this week have been surrounding consecration and sacrifice. It's not easy to do either. But "if we were not required to make sacrifices, we would never be able to develop the faith necessary for eternal salvation."

Whether it's in our relationships, our church callings, or just trying to live a more obedient, Christ-centered life, we must sacrifice if we wish to progress. Life truly does start outside of your comfort zone. This week, give it up! Give the Lord that one thing you've been holding back from Him. And look in front of you for those opportunities to serve. You are where you are for a reason - find out why!

I love y'all more than you can imagine. 

The Thug Life Chose Me (12/7/15)

Another week in paradise!  McComb is one interesting place. An elder in my district put it like this: "When people in Mississippi say that the thug life chose them, they mean it." I've said it before, but this place really is foreign compared to how I grew up. People fear for their physical safety every day - at home, at school, and on the streets. It's opened my eyes to how so many people live.

That being said, this environment breeds some strong-willed people. I will quickly speak of some of the African American women I've met - they are fireballs. At a lesson with an 52 year-old investigator and an 80 year-old member, we became helpless to intervene as they got to loudly discussing how to defend yourself around here. We just had to sit back and laugh about some of the things said: "Back off, cuz Madear's in the HOUSE!" and then on another topic but in the same lesson: "After 3 hours of church?! If you ain't got God by then, you ain't gonna get Him!" People say the funniest things, I swear. Talking about the Book of Mormon, "Those demons are RIDICULOUS!" Also, it's not "street," it's "skreet." It's not "children," it's "churren." I wish y'all could hear these people. They keep a smile on my face every day.
Our investigator D committed to stop smoking so she could be baptized, and we sealed the deal with a pinky promise that'd she'd be smoke-free by the end of this week! She and her grandkids came to church this week - we were SO happy! She's getting really close to being ready to take the plunge!

Now, for the real news. I like to eat. I can eat like a bird, or I can eat like a garbage disposal. So my district leader challenged me to an eat-off. We got these identical "illegal burritos" after a Zone Training Meeting this week. It was like a foot and a half long and weighed like 5 pounds. Don't worry, I represented big-appetited women around the world well. I downed that thing like a champ. And it destroyed me for the rest of the day. But my pride was on the line, so I followed through.

To summarize the rest of this week, it's like every other: every day is full of struggles and miracles and the spirit. This is God's work because this is His gospel. This is his true and living church. And I'm so grateful to be a part of it and to have the blessing of sharing it with others full-time, including the opportunities to be painfully bold and awkward.

"A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race." - Joseph Smith

Love y'all to the moon and back!

6 Months of Boot Camp Complete (11/30/15)

That's right, folks. Ya girl Sista Lannin has made it a whopping 6 months in the mission field. Who knew it was even possible? Apparently it is. And holy guacamole has it been a journey thus far. There are no words sufficient to describe the experience of serving a mission. There are things that I'm learning here that I could have learned no other way: trusting the Lord's will, embracing challenges, loving unconditionally, patience, self-discipline, passion for the gospel... that's like 1% of it. My understanding of the Lord's plan has grown infinitely, and I'm also 10,000 times more aware of how much there is to learn and become. There are discouragements and pains and experiences that I've had in Mississippi that have been so incredibly hard to deal with that I've had to rely completely on the Lord, because there was no where else to turn. I'm buckling up, because I'm betting He's preparing me for some major whirlwinds later in life.

Missions may be boot camp for life, but the gospel is boot camp for eternity. And so the greatest lessons I'm learning are how much our Savior and our Father love us. That they never give up on us. And that they never leave us. That whatever life has in store, it will all be okay because they have a greater plan, and they know who we can become.
Sappiness done. You made it. Now, for the fun part! I have been a walking train wreck! The past couple weeks I've had bronchitis, sinusitis, and an upper respiratory infection. I tried to proselyte through it and am currently seeking forgiveness for potentially starting an epidemic in McComb. I also jammed my left ring finger (don't need it anyway lol) with astounding effectiveness last P-day. Enough to turn it giant and purple and require a custom fiberglass splint :) Keep laughing, it's okay, I'm laughing at myself too.

As usual, each week is full of disappointments and heartbreakers, but also a plethora of miracles! This week, God put some special people in our path, and we are excited to see where it goes with all of them. And our investigator D has decided to be baptized! She's had a date for a while, but she actually wants to now ;) The spirit does all the work!

Hope y'all had a happy thanksgiving. Know how much I love y'all and miss y'alls beautiful radiant countenances. Keep being a light to those around you!

That Your Joy Might Be Full (11/24/15)

This week has been crazy! I've been sick for most of it - this bug has worked a number on my voice and my lungs... hopefully I'll be able to talk normally soon! Tornado warnings. A mission-wide sister conference in Baton Rouge where I got to see every sister I love so much. And... transfer calls. I'm staying in Mississippi for another transfer! That was a little bit of a plot twist, because staying in an area for 7.5 months isn't all that common, especially for a first area. So I get to be with my people for the holidays!! But since there was such a high probability that I would be leaving, I had been reflecting a lot on the work I've done here in McComb. And the overwhelming feeling was just LOVE. Love for our little branch, love for the culture, and love for our investigators. And I get to spend one and a half more months here! And I was so happy about that, especially because of some recent developments (I'll name just a few):

1) New investigators! We've taught D, a beautiful chocolate goddess, twice this week, and boy does she seem prepared for the restored gospel. She's soaked up everything we've taught her like a sponge. We're also teaching the M family: the parents are married with jobs, and they have 4 kids! Teaching families makes this work so cool because you get to help them work toward being sealed in the temple :)

2) D and 3 of her grandkids came to church this Sunday and had a great time. When that happens, progress moves forward so much faster! Good things are coming for that family!

3) R is ready to start taking lessons again! We had a lesson with her and B in which she read John 15:11 to us and told us that when she got into anti and stopped learning about the restored gospel, she felt all her joy leave her. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." The gospel brings her joy and that was an answer to her sincere prayers (and mine too)!

And I didn't even mention half of the people that I am so excited to stay here and serve. God kept me here for a reason, and now I get to work my tail off and see miracles!

This week, think about the little things and the big things that bring you joy, especially in the gospel. Don't take them for granted! I am here because the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings me joy that I can find nowhere else. Peace that the world can't bring. I know that it is true.

Tell your families you love em!!