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!!

Called to Serve (11/16/15)

So, I've spent a lot of the past months learning what it means to really serve. I've done work in nursing homes, food banks, soup kitchens, thrift stores, and people's homes. Those are stellar ways to serve. But the best experiences I've had, the ones that have really shaped me, are the opportunities that I've taken to just show people that I love them. Mourning with those that mourn. Listening to those that need a friend. Visiting the depressed and the downtrodden. There were a few experiences this week that stuck with me. I'll share two:

1) We have been visiting a struggling member of our branch in the past weeks, helping her with her spirituality amidst all of her trials. She needed someone to tell her she was loved, that there was hope; and most importantly, she needed someone to listen. As we followed the spirit, we were able to serve her in the ways she truly needed.

2) One of our investigators with a baptismal date, M, got into a really terrible car wreck this week in which her abusive ex had driven into head-on traffic trying to kill them both. The guy died, the other driver is still in serious condition, and M came out with broken ribs, dislocated hips, lacerated organs, and a fractured neck. She's been struggling with all the physical and emotional pain that comes with surviving something like that and being confined to a huge body brace. We visited her and were able to reflect on how much love we have for her, share scriptures with her, and help her cope. (Not to mention that she's been finding solace in the Book of Mormon and now knows that it's true!!)

One night I was looking at a picture of myself opening my mission call. I had been thinking about how grateful I was for the opportunity to love and serve the people here. And I imagined that instead of Louisiana Baton Rouge being written on that letter, it said, "You have been called to serve M, the H's, Joe, B & D, (etc.)." And then I just had to thank our Heavenly Father that He's allowed me this opportunity and has showed me how to love and serve.

Update: D, an investigator who hasn't been progressing for a long time, has decided to quit smoking and is finally reading the Book of Mormon and has agreed to come to church! What a tender mercy :) Never thought that would happen!

I was going to write more, but this email filled up real quick. Definitely not a boring week, and man was it mentally exhausting! For more dramatic details and happenings, stay tuned for the publication of my mission journal in approximately a year :)

Ordinary Miracles (11/9/15)

Another week past, and boy it went fast! Not a ton of ridiculous stories this week (aside from baby-daddy drama), but every day is full of ordinary miracles. If we look around, they're everywhere! God's hand is in our lives - it truly is. And there's so much to be grateful for! We were able to teach or talk with multiple people this week that we've been trying to see for so long! Just little things like that make my heart soar and know that God is doing this work with us!

This Sunday, our beloved Ford Fusion, Queen B, decided to take a little snooze. Battery completely fried for no reason. Couldn't even use the remote to unlock it. We got a ride to church with a member, and amongst this dramatic turn of events, a lady we contacted in front of a store, Prophet Dear, surprised us by coming to church this Sunday! She seemed to enjoy herself and said she would come back :) That was a ray of sunshine!

We also had exchanges this week, and my Granny Smith came to McComb with me! She's my trainer's trainer, and she had served in McComb before, so it was a GREAT time. It's so fun to see the different relationships different missionaries have with different people. Each person is truly placed exactly where they are needed. That's an amazing part of this whole mission thing. You can always know that you are exactly where God needs you at that time. You may not always understand why, but He is working through you. And I know I've been in McComb for these months because I was meant to be here. I love these people so so much. And as we learned from Elder Dale G. Renlund during conference, true love and concern for others comes from seeing them through a parent's eyes - through the Father's eyes.

Sorry this email was lame... I'll do my best to find some drama for next week's email.

I LOVE Y'ALL! Keep serving, keep loving, keep counting blessings! Tis ALWAYS the season!

Tornadoes, Tires, and Teaching, oh my! (11/2/15)

The title of this email is ridiculous. I'm unapologetic though, because this week was ridiculous too.

That's right - you guessed it - we had a Wizard of Oz moment this week when a tornado struck McComb on Halloween! Not really, but the tornado sirens went off all over town and the wind and rain were ridiculous. Alerts coming to our phone like no tomorrow. So we sought shelter at a nearby member's home and there we stayed for a good 4 hours playing board games until the tornado passed. We had to be in early that day because of Halloween anyway, so we only got one lesson in, but dang was it a good one! Through a potential investigator, we had set up an appointment with this 36 year-old lady named N. We sat on her porch with her and her kids while the skies poured all around us. We intended to teach the Restoration as usual, but quickly learned that this woman didn't really understand Jesus Christ. For one of the first times of my mission, I had the privilege of helping someone come to know Christ for the first time. We explained his role of Savior, intermediary, and friend. And that naturally flowed into teaching the Restoration of the gospel. Those two subjects are more closely related and intertwined than sometimes we give them credit for.

We also got a flat tire this week. On the way to an appointment with an investigator (B)... with a member present... which we were already running late for. Needless to say, prayers were said. We made it! We parked, rushed in, and by the end of the lesson, that poor tire had less air in it than a bag of chips. So we rolled up our sleeves and changed that tire in front of B's house! B

had a nice jack, so we let him help us with that part. Call me Handy Lanny.

Also, we met a lady as we were walking into a store who introduced herself as "Prophet Dear." She told us about our spiritual glow and that she knew just from looking at us that we were women of God. We talked with her, and she proceeded to prophesy about our futures. She predicted I'd get married, have only 1 or 2 kids, lots of cars, and never want for nothin. I'd be blessed beyond measure. (Doubting a few of those - stay tuned.) Upon parting, she kissed our cheeks, spoke in tongues, and professed that she would always keep and treasure the pamphlet we gave her. Sweet ole Prophet Dear. :) Things like this happen more often than you'd think!

Regardless of all the craziness this week (I only mentioned, like, half of it) we got a lot of teaching done! It was a really fun week that passed in the blink of an eye.

In keeping with the Wizard of Oz thing, I'd like to reminisce about a Girls Camp theme from a few years back: "Follow HIS yellow brick road - find your way home." Y'all, Christ has laid that path. He is the way, the light, and the life. Follow him.

There's no place like home!

Windows of Heaven are Pouring (10/26/15)

Missions are weird. People tell you things. Scary things. Someone we contacted literally confessed to murder to us. Fear. We got out of there quick. People confess more things to missionaries than they do to God, I swear. That's messed. ANYWAY.

Adventure #2 this week: We were going through a really nice car wash. Of course, in the spirit of preparedness, I double-checked to make sure all the windows were all the way up in the car. It doesn't take a genius to know where this story is going. One rebellious back window decided to start going up and down aggressively as we were being pulled through this car wash. Amongst much screaming and laughing, foam, water, and rubber whips blasted through the open window. We did our best to hang over the passenger seat and hold raincoats up to the window. The back of our car looked like a bubble bath. The tender mercies of the Lord abound though, because our Area Book resting on the back seat came out safe without a single page or teaching record getting damaged. We spent a good minute vacuuming out all the foam. I guess the Lord was teaching me something about inner purity being more important than outer beauty or something. I got a kick out of it though.

On the actual missionary side of things, we have three new investigators: H, her boyfriend L, and her sister M. They are all super sweet and sincere, and have all agreed to be baptized in January! We have high hopes for them :) An investigator, B, also introduced us to his friend Brent from New Orleans, who we'll be setting up with elders down there! We had fewer lessons than usual because we were so busy with church activities and such, but lots of investigators actually kept their commitments to read from the Book of Mormon, which makes my heart fly. The Book of Mormon is the convincing evidence of the Restoration. You find out it's true, and everything else flows naturally from that. Read it y'all!

We went to a Revival on P-day with B and R at their church, the Church of Christ. It was way fun. The restored gospel truly does just add MORE truth and light to what other people already have. It was a fantastic experience, and now B is way more open to come to church with us!

The rain has been fun over here - we're getting Hurricane Patricia's leftovers. And the Halloween fun is starting too!

I just want y'all to know how much I love you and this work. The longer I've been out (5 months!!) the more my testimony and love for the gospel grows. I love serving these people, and I only wish I had more ability to give to them and to the Lord. But the Lord qualifies those whom He calls. And I so desperately need the Atonement to get me through this and to be an effective missionary! I used to think missionaries were invincible and knew everything - HA! But I am really starting to see changes in myself as I've spent all my time doing God's work. He's shaping me into the person He always knew I could be.

Gators (10/19/15)

Gators. Alligators and investigators. That basically sums up the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission. We went to an alligator farm last week for P-day and it was WAY FUN. I wrestled and kissed (ya take what you can get) an alligator that I named Bruce. And rode a giant turtle. And got attacked by a grouchy parrot named Sunny. I told people that I wouldn't come home without riding an alligator first, and now I have! But I'm not ready to come home yet :) There's still so much work to be done!

We met an Egyptian lady named N a few weeks ago, and tried to teach her the Restoration. The language barrier is intense, but this week we came back and gave her an Arabic Book of Mormon. She is so excited to read it! She is the sweetest. Good thing the universal language (other than the spirit) is food, because the donuts she gave us were to die for. :)

This week, Joe blessed the sacrament for the first time! It was such a beautiful thing for me to witness, after seeing him through learning the gospel :) We finally got a member to a lesson with our investigator, D. D

's entire attitude changed during that lesson. She lit up, and started having a desire to find the truth. And it all came from having a friend - someone that was willing to show that they care. Miracles come out of doing that one simple thing - being a friend. That's something that we can all do. My challenge to y'all this week is to be a friend to someone who may be struggling, lonely, or falling behind. Seek them out. Talk with them. Love them. Pray to know who they are - the spirit WILL tell you.

Another thing that's been on my mind - complacency. Never give in to the temptation to think, "All is well in Zion" (2 Nephi 28:21). Because even Zion always needs some improvement. We should constantly be asking, "What lack I yet?" One day at a time, one change at a time, the Lord, through his endless grace, will help us become who we're destined to be :)

Quote of the week: "I had a dream that Alma was a DJ." - Elder Sinclair
Also, FYI, I preach in my sleep. I have since day one at the MTC. Missionary-ing 24/7.

The Way to the Heart is Through the Stomach (10/12/15)

This week sailed by. I had to sit down and go through my journal to remember it. Well, I've been out in the field for 3 transfers (4.5 months!) - and about to start another transfer here in Mississippi. I can't believe it - a quarter of my mission is done. And it's gone a lot faster than I expected it to! We've been working hard!

This week, not a ton of noteworthy things happened. I went on exchanges in Louisiana while Sister Kohler & Sister Smith took over McComb. I accidentally kept the phone with me, so they had to do missionary work without it (which is way hard by the way) - oh well :)

One cool experience this week:
A less active member, Sister R, has been an active member of a Baptist church for a while. We've been trying to go see her, but she would never commit to an appointment and is always busy when we stop by. So, in a moment of pure inspiration, I decided that we were going to knock on her door and just RAVE about her delicious cooking. We sat in the car and role-played it, and then went to the door. She quickly invited us over for a meal this week at a specific time - the first time she's ever committed to anything :) Maybe it was the spirit, maybe it was me learning Southern culture - but it WORKED.

We also had a really fantastic, emotional, breakthrough lesson with another less-active this week. She committed to reading the Book of Mormon all the way through. She kept saying, "It's time," with tear-filled eyes. It was amazing. The spirit does all the work.

Quote of the week: "I like my investigators like I like my oreos - chocolate, and dunked." - Yours Truly

The Weak and the Simple (10/5/15)

I never cease to be amazed at how much of a blessing it is to hear living prophets, seers, and revelators at General Conference. I hope as y'all listened, you were sensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost telling you what you need to know and what you need to work on. I sure was reminded of what I need to work on :)

While conference itself was fantastic as always, it was probably the most trying weekend of my mission. It seemed as if my strength was being chiseled at constantly by one thing after the next. You've got the dignity of the calling challenged by drunkards, you've got recent converts falling away, you've got people seeing only the worst in you, you've got people right and left refusing to progress, you've got your own inadequacies - you've got some major discouragement.

But the most trying experience I've faced, like most of the hardest challenges we face, has to do with someone I have come to love so so much. R, who had a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and had a strong desire to be baptized just days ago, has come across anti-Mormon material. When we came by to check on her yesterday, she told us that she no longer wants to be baptized and she no longer wants to meet with us. She was hurt and confused by what she read. There were many tears shed there with her. She knows the spirit she's felt as she's read the Book of Mormon, as she's met with us, as she's gotten priesthood blessings, as she's attended church, and as she's watched General Conference. But she's hurt, and she's backed up to a wall of faith that we all get backed up against at one point or another. As we learned in conference, if we want enlightenment, we should always look up. And R knows that. She'll continue to read the scriptures and pray for answers, and so it is in God's hands to help her through this. Unexpectedly, her husband B is helping her most of all to deal with human imperfection, even in the church. He is encouraging her to continue seeking the truth, although he himself just barely started opening up to the Book of Mormon. After talking/crying with R for a while, B asked to read with us outside. So we did. And as I finished choking through the verses, the overcast skies broke to send a ray of light onto the paperback Book of Mormon resting on the table in front of me. The gentle breeze felt like a warm hug from the Savior. On this, one of my darkest moments, God was telling me, in a way that I could recognize, that the Book of Mormon was His word. That although I don't understand everything, I know that. Without a doubt. The hard part of the job is helping others to know that too.

"That the fullness of my gospel be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world" (D&C 1:23). I am the definition of weak and simple. President Uchtdorf taught us to focus on the simplicity of the Gospel. Elder Bednar taught us that when we can't do a lot, we do what matters most. And for me, that is declaring my testimony, my unshakable witness that the Book of Mormon is true. That the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is Christ's true and living church. That it is led by true prophets of God. That's all I've got. That's all I know.

Brothers and sisters, you can get through anything - any trial, any doubt - if you will have faith firmly rooted in Jesus Christ. That sturdy foundation does not come by accident - it comes be intentional seeking, serving, studying, and obedience. But it DOES come. I urge - exhort - all of you to come to a knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel for yourselves. To heed the counsel of ancient and living prophets. If you do this - you WILL make it through ANYTHING. As Elder Holland taught, "God always provides safety for the soul, and with the Book of Mormon, He has again done that in our time. Remember this declaration by Jesus Himself: 'Whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived' - and in the last days neither your heart not your faith will fail you."

Are you breaking up with me? (9/28/15)

Believe it or not, missionary work is a lot like dating - the really dramatic kind. There's a lot of being stood up. It's an emotional roller coaster. You get your hopes up, then they get crushed. You think someone is THE ONE and then they're not. Lots of breakups. But you keep doing it... and why is that? Well, I won't go into why we keep dating (if anyone has answers to that question, they are welcome to share), but we keep doing missionary work because of the spirit. Because it's true. Because it's what the Lord has asked of us. Because the worth of souls is great in the sight of God (D&C 18:10,15-16). And we can find SO much joy in doing our part, however insignificant it may seem, in bringing souls back to Him. It is the greatest way to serve both our fellow men, and thus our Heavenly Father (Mosiah 2:17). So I keep doing it, even though it breaks my heart! I was going to talk about all the times we've been dumped this week, but I'll save that for the diary. It's sad, but you just move on and keep looking for the one!

Listen up y'all - we've got a killa opportunity coming up. We get to hear from prophets of the Lord. That's right - General Conference is approaching. Watch it - intently. Record spiritual impressions you receive. These are God's chosen servants we're listening to! Think about how MARVELOUS that is!! DO NOT TAKE IT FOR GRANTED, or I'll be coming for ya. Sleep with one eye open. Invite your friends to watch with you - don't hoard the blessings of modern revelation! And I was so blessed to be able to watch the women's session of conference with B, one of our recent converts, this week! My favorite parts are these:

Rosemary M. Wixom taught us that we not only need God, but He needs US, because we are his literal children!

Dieter F. Uchtdorf: Now is part of eternity. Of course the biggest blessing is eternal life, but that starts now! We're alive and progressing now! Treasure this very part, this very moment, of your journey - it's how you'll get where you're going :)
One last thought from Elder Brimhall in my district: When we take Christ's name upon us, we are taking his WORK upon us as well. So let's get to it!

And If anyone's wondering, I still mess up constantly in every aspect of missionary work and life. Laughter is pretty good medicine. So is the Atonement. Haha, pray for me! I love y'all so much!

There's a First Time for Everything (9/21/15)

While teaching the Restoration, we tend to ask how Jesus might feel about the lamb he's holding in his arms in the picture on the front of the Restoration pamphlet. We usually get answers like, "love, concern, protection, how he feels about us." But we got a new answer this week while teaching on the street: "Hungry, like he wants some lamb chops for dinner." That guy was a gem, and that answer was a first!

Another first... I may or may not have had a run-in with law enforcement... for the first time... on my mission. Of all places. I got pulled over!! But no fear, I just accidentally had my brights on, and that kind officer just gave me a warning. But that doesn't mean I wasn't shakin like a 9 on the Richter Scale. Sweatin like a sinner in church, ya might say. Well, what can ya do, some people are just a little dumb (me).

Other firsts I've experienced on my mission thus far: 1) I have never EVER been so consistently exhausted - physically, mentally, emotionally. 2) I have never had so many feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and disappointment. 3) I have never felt so lonely.  4) I have never felt so close to God.  5) I have never found such pure joy out of studying the gospel.  6) I have NEVER felt such a purpose for my life and such a confirmation that I'm where I need to be. 7) I have never felt so much joy or so much love - both that I'm sending out and that I'm receiving.

And that my friends, is missionary work. The most grueling of work, and the most intense spiritual rewards. But please don't wait for an experience like a mission to claim those spiritual blessings! You can start now! You can delve into the gospel NOW. You can serve with all your heart NOW. There's no better day than today.

And now, I've saved the best for last... Brother Joe got baptized and confirmed this week! I'm so proud of him and feel so immensely blessed to have witnessed this change take place in his life. I've seen the gospel change him. He is a completely new person. And he's so so happy. I don't know what else to say other than this: This church is true. Only the restored gospel of Jesus Christ can fill every hole in our lives, in our souls. If you're not sharing it, start. Those blessings that you've received demand to be shared. I promise you that as you reach outside your comfort zone and pray for opportunities and courage to share the gospel, your conviction will grow, you will see blessings in your life, and you will find immeasurable joy in giving others this irreplaceable gift.

I love y'all so much! Make no mistake about it, I desperately need your prayers and appreciate them immensely.

Closed Doors and Open Windows (9/14/15)

So I have to start off with a confession: Sometimes I forget I'm white. I literally get along with these people so well and consider them family, to the point of thinking I am one of them. But seriously, love these people here in Mississippi so so much!

So last week, we worked our tails off and got 28 lessons. This week, we worked our tails off and got 20 lessons. Good thing it's about people, not numbers, because Sister Kohler and I saw some major miracles this week - all thanks to the very real power of the spirit!

We contacted a lady named T about a week ago at some apartments we're at all the time. We set up an appointment to teach her the Restoration, and she actually kept her appointment (real shocker). The spirit was so intense in that lesson that she starting crying. She told us that she is really closed off to people, but something (ahem, the spirit) told her she needed to meet with us.

We had taught a man the Restoration on the street and set up an appointment way out in the country to teach him again. He stood us up. As we were about to turn off of his street, I saw a house off in the distance in the middle of a field that I had the strongest feeling we had to go knock on. As we walk up, the dogs are barking like mad at us, but I was so determined to knock on this door that I went all dog-whisperer on them so they would settle down, and knocked on the door. Wait. Knock again. Wait. Ring the doorbell that looks very broken. Wait. Then around the side of the house comes a 25 year-old named C, who told us all about his previous life as a gang-banger and drug addict and about him finding Jesus. He is so prepared for the gospel. We think he's really special. And I know that God led us to him - the street contact, being stood up, and the spirit that told me to knock on that one door.

Then, on Sunday, we were 4 lessons short of the mission goal of 20 lessons a week. Our firm appointment stood us up, and we had an hour to get in 2 lessons, with no options. After failed tracting on a country road for 30 minutes, we saw a man outside about to weed-whip his yard. His name was E, and when we taught him the Restoration, he told us something that blew me away. Just before we had walked up (with the Book of Mormon), he had asked God if there were other books beside the Bible that he needed to read. Mind blown. God is great. Our experiences with C and E really taught me that the spirit will truly guide us if we listen. And that when God closes a door, it's always because he's going to open a window.

I LOVE this gospel, y'all. It is true. I wouldn't be here if it weren't. Miracles happen every day. The enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is so real. THAT is how we get stronger, better, & more ready to live with God again. Let him help you, and have the faith that he will.