Monday, August 22, 2016

Baths and baptism

Wow, this week went by so fast! Another P-day already!

Sooo, my old planner is at home, so I'm missing the first couple days of this week, but that's okay. :)
Still lots to write about!

On Wednesday, Sister Stephens and I taught Rod and had a good lesson finishing up the Plan of Salvation and teaching the Word of Wisdom. He wants to keep the Word of Wisdom, including quitting smoking, but he wouldn't commit to quitting quite yet because he wants to do it when he wants to do it, not just when God wants him to do it. And he wouldn't pray to ask God if now is the time God wants him to quit, because Rod knows what the answer is going to be. :) Oh bless his heart. It makes me smile sadly when people think they're not accountable to God until they've prayed about it. But Rod will get there! That evening, we helped the Young Women do family history to find names to take to the temple to do baptisms for the dead in a month. I've never been very good at family history, but boy, it's a lot more fun when you know how to do it! It's really fun to help people find their ancestors' names to take to the temple!

On Thursday we got to see Melissa and had an awesome possum lesson with her!! Sister Tedonne came which was awesome because she's a convert and wasn't born into the church, and Melissa really liked the experiences she shared, especially her testimony of church and the Book of Mormon! We taught the Plan of Salvation, and when we got to baptism as one of the things we must do to be able to return to live with God, we asked Melissa if she was still willing to be baptized. She said yes, and we told her that we had been praying about a date for her and knew that she can be ready to be baptized on September 18, and would she be baptized then? She said yes, which was awesome, so we talked about church as a requirement for baptism because of the importance of the sacrament. I shared with her my favorite analogy for baptism and sacrament, how it's like when a baby is born. That baby gets a bath right off the bat, but is it set for life after that one bath? Nope! That baby is going to keep getting dirty and needing baths for the rest of its life. So how it goes with baptism. Baptism is an initial cleansing, like a baby's first bath. It cleanses us from our sins, but we're going to keep sinning after baptism because we're imperfect. So that's where the sacrament comes in. Instead of being baptized again and again when we sin, we take the Sacrament each Sunday and, if we've truly repented beforehand, we renew the promises we made to God at baptism and become clean again, as clean as we were on the day we were baptized. Melissa really liked that and it made a lot of sense to her! I love it when something clicks for an investigator in the lesson! How neat! She said she didn't have work on Saturday night, so that she would for sure come to church on Sunday!
And guess what? She did!! Melissa came to church!!!!! She went to sacrament meeting, Sunday school- where she even read a scripture and made a comment- and Relief Society. She said she was really glad she came to church and felt good and uplifted!! What a blessing!! Sister Stephens and I were all smiles all day! God sure made that one happen!

So that was for sure the highlight of the week. Other happenings: So when I first came to Fort Walton, one of the first times I went to Green Acres, the neighborhood that Roy lives in, Sister Stephens and I would be biking or driving along the road and on several occasions I looked over the fence into a backyard and saw a young mother on the back porch watering her plants. I felt very strongly once that we should go knock on the door of that house. So over the past few months we've tried a couple times, but no one was ever home. But this week we tried again, and this time the door opened! The mother I'd seen answered- her name is Alia and she's a recently single mom with a young daughter and son. We asked her if she needed help with anything, and she said no, but we had a nice conversation finding out more about her. She's Christian and is close to God, and asked us if there was anything she could pray for for us! She was so kind! We told her that Jesus Christ teaches people how to be good parents and have happiness as families. She agreed to have us come over again, and seemed excited to talk more with us! I'm so grateful that we followed that prompting to knock on her door! God definitely places prepared people in our path when we ask and act in faith.

Other things from this week: Sister Stephens and I went to Stewby's for dinner one night and ordered their salsa that has shark meat in it! It was super good! Yesterday at church, Jim and Vicki stayed for the third meeting, which they haven't done in the past because Jim said he was afraid the teacher might ask him questions he doesn't know the answer to. So Sister Stephens and I talked with the Priesthood class teacher and asked if he wouldn't ask Jim questions. :) Jim went to the class, and he liked it and said he learned a lot! Yay! We taught Jim and Vicki after church, going over some questions from their daily Book of Mormon reading. They're so diligent! Jim has progressed so much! Later, the Spanish Elders had a baptism with a member interpreting during the program. It was neat! Then, we had dinner with the Prices. I love them! Man, I love our ward, and this area, and all of our investigators. We're so blessed here. 

This morning I was studying Alma 37:46-47 which reads, "O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever. And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live..." 

I love the phrase "look to God and live." By following the footnote scripture references, I learned that we can look to God by having faith in Him and hoping in Him. We exercise our faith in God and Jesus Christ as we pray, study, and keep the commandments. To have hope in God means to trust in His promises and have a firm belief that we can become like Him and inherit eternal life. Our Heavenly Father who loves us perfectly has provided the perfect plan which, if we follow, will allow us to "live," to have joy in this life and live with our families in joy in the next. I know this is true. And I love it. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Singin in the rain!

 This week has been full of rain, cake, and awesome people! 

Last Monday, we had dinner with the Brills at Buffalo Wild Wings and they filled us in on the happenings of the Olympics. Boy, normally it's really easy to ask people to turn off their TVs when we go into their home to begin a lesson, but when we walk in and the Olympics are on, it takes a wee bit more will power. :) On Tuesday, we visited with Susan who shared her yummy fresh fruit with us as we talked about the message from the First Presidency in the August Ensign about how even when our circumstances aren't ideal, we can still secure the blessing of eternal life through our personal choices. Later, we went over to help Kaylee Highsmith finish a summer assignment for her 8th grade English class... it was an all-too familiar situation. :) We helped her create a comic strip for the book "Matilda" and it was fun! The next time we went over, her Grandma thanked us with chocolate and coconut cake. 

On Wednesday we had an awesome lesson with Rod continuing the Plan of Salvation. He said he believes everything we teach him because he feels good, and when he prays about what he learns, he recognizes God's affirming answer through the warm, peaceful feelings of the Holy Ghost. He said he's been praying for help to get Sundays off, too! But he said he's not quite ready to set a date for baptism, but that he'll know when he's ready. So that's what we're praying for now. Also, he said he had heard that Mormons don't smoke, but he said that won't be a problem, he's already planning on quitting. Yay Rod! That evening, we taught a lesson to Jim and Vicki at the Davis family's home. We taught about following the prophet, and the Davis's were perfect examples! We invited Jim and Vicki to read President Thomas S. Monson's talk from April 2016 General Conference, "Choices." Then yesterday, when we taught them again, it was a perfect segue into our lesson about agency and the blessings of choosing to follow Jesus Christ by keeping the commandments. Jake Green came with us and contributed a lot to the lesson with personal experiences. The Spirit was so present at that lesson!

On Thursday, we had Chinese takeout with the Ayers family, and boy had I been craving Chinese food. Later, Sister Stephens and I were walking to visit Sister Bates since it was too dark to bike. It was pouring, so we had our umbrellas and I had my rain boots on, so of course we started splashing and dancing around and singing "Singing in the Rain." It was so fun! We were soaking wet and happy when we went home. :) 

On Friday, we tried to see a bunch of people, and most weren't home, but we did get to visit with a former investigator named Courtney. She's really kind and has a cute little girl, and said we could come over again soon. We tried a house where a less active member supposedly lived, but the lady that answered said her family had just moved in. Her name was Olla, and we talked for a little bit and she invited us to come over next week to talk more. We had dinner with the awesome Defritas family- they're a young couple with two daughters, nine and six. We had tasty Asian salad mixed with spaghetti noodles and peanut sauce, and super amazing chocolate cake for dessert. Later that evening, we went to see if Melissa was home, and her whole street was inundated in at least two or three inches of water! But too late, we were already on the street and had to turn around (it's a culdesac), so we slowly drove through the river! You could see the reflection of all the houses and cars and street lights in the water! It was crazy!! :) Melissa's car wasn't there, so we went to help Roy do his family history so he has lots of names to take to the temple in September! We were able to find a lot of his family members' names on! At one point, he called up his sister to ask about a grandparent's birthday, and explaining himself to her, he said, "I'm tryin to get the members to heaven!" It was hilarious! Roy's the best! 

At church, I conducted the music in sacrament meeting again for Sister Jex. Elder Simpson gave a great talk since he's going home on Wednesday. Sister Stephens and I taught the 16-18 year old youth Sunday school class about the doctrine of Family History, and it was fun! Though weird, because I feel like I'm practically their age. After church, we had our lesson with Jim and Vicki and Jake. Then we taught Melissa! We hadn't been able to teach her for a couple weeks because she was so busy, but she's doing great! We talked about 1 Nephi 1 and how the Spirit, which we are filled with as we read the Book of Mormon, can teach us all things and bring all things to our remembrance. She liked that, since she's studying for a test in her nursing class on Tuesday. Then we taught Akeria since Roderick wasn't feeling well. She's liking school, and we helped her start working on the Faith in God program for primary aged girls. Later, we finally got to see Gloria! She told us that her back has been hurting her like crazy, and a thought popped into my head, "ask her if she'd like a priesthood blessing." So I asked, and she said yes, she'd like one. So the elders will be giving her one later today. It's great how the Holy Ghost works! 
In Moroni 7: 13  we read "But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God." We don't need to know whether a thought to do good comes from God through the Spirit, or if it is a thought from ourselves. As Elder Bednar frankly put it, "Quit worryin about it!" If it's a thought to do good and be good, it's coming from God, whether we recognize that or not. When we follow through on those thoughts to do good, even if they're as little as, Oh, I should call that person; I wonder how So and So's doing; I probably shouldn't say that; I should be more patient; I should thank that person... etc.- when we act on those, our capacity to recognize the Spirit will increase, as well as our capacity to recognize God in our lives every day. 

OH YEAH! One more thing. Sister Libby Mcsheehy gave me a violin that was sitting at her house doing nothing! It needs new strings and new bow hair, but it's awesome!! She said she'll replace whatever needs to be fixed on it, and then she's giving it to me! Apparently missionaries in the Florida Tallahassee Mission are allowed to have instruments that can be played in sacrament meeting. So I don't know why I was told to not bring my viola, but it's okay. :) Cause I have an instrument now!
 Morning run on the beach

Nicky holding a frog!

Singing in the rain!

Sister Stephens artistic skills

Roy with his baptism/confirmation certificate

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Yep, it's August!

August announced its arrival by raining pretty much every day this week! :) Thankfully, it only rained once while we were out on our bikes. It's been another awesome week! We started teaching Janelle, who is Melissa's granddaughter and Nicola's daughter. Janelle just graduated from high school and is starting college soon to study nursing and plans to become a pediatrician. She's awesome! At our first lesson with her, she said, "So my whole life, I've had feelings about people that tell me if someone's a good person or if they're a bad person and I should stay away from them. And it's always been right. Right now, I have really good feelings, like I'm all warm inside, and that's because you guys are here. So I've asked a lot of people about these feelings I get, but what do you guys think it is?" We taught her about the Holy Ghost and that one of his roles is to help us discern right from wrong and to testify of truth. We showed her Galatians 5:23 that teaches us how the Spirit feels, and she loved that! She said what we were teaching her felt true, and that she's never felt the way she was feeling before. It was such a sweet lesson and the spirit was so strong there! 

Our second lesson with her was the Restoration, which answered her question of what makes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints different from all other Christian churches. She said it made so much sense, and she said that she feels like what we teach fits how she thinks. We asked her what she was going to do about what she had just learned, and she said, "Well I guess I have to go to church, huh?" :) Yes, Janelle! She's so awesome! Another person we've started teaching because of Roy!

Sarah our new investigator from two weeks ago said that her son Sammy had pneumonia, :( so we cancelled our lesson for that. The next day he was doing better, but she understandably cancelled again so she could focus on helping him. Sister Stephens and I had the thought that we should take them cupcakes, which are Sammy's favorite dessert. Also, Tess Nystrom was having a rough week, and so was Jake Green. So during our dinner hour, we made funfetti cupcakes for Sammy and chocolate chip cookies for Tess and Jake. On our way to an appointment, we took the cupcakes to Sarah and Sammy. They were so happy! Sammy's face lit up when he saw them and said, "birthday cakes!" :) Sarah said we didn't understand how much that meant to her. It made me so  happy to see how something so simple like making cupcakes made their night. 

On Friday, all the Fort Walton missionaries- us, the 1st ward sisters, the English elders, and the Spanish elders- raked up leaves at the Stevens' home. Whenever we do service for others, my love for them increases so much. It's awesome! 

On Saturday, the English elders had a baptismal service planned for two of their investigators, which was awesome! But when we went into the church, we were told that a water pipe had broken and water to the church had been shut off, and would probably take two weeks to fix. The poor elders had to cancel their baptism! Elder Simpson looked absolutely crestfallen- he was set to go home on Wednesday as it's the end of his mission. They talked about doing the baptism in someone's pool, or maybe in Niceville on Sunday. But- miracles happen! We got a text the next morning that said the pipe had already been fixed and that the baptism was to take place at 5! Yayayayyyyy! Prayers are answered! Both baptisms took place and everything went super well! 

This week I've learned about the importance of having a positive attitude and finding joy in recognizing how much God blesses us, even when things don't always work out. Sister Stephens and I had  lot of appointments fall through this week, and we made some mistakes, like losing track of our apartment keys and not always feeling like we said the right things. But despite all that, we've tried to do our best and stay positive. And I've experienced a lot of joy this week! As long as we repent and strive to do better every day, God will make up for where we are lacking. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


This week I've really learned about how the life of a missionary is a roller coaster of ups and downs, and that's okay! There must needs be an opposition in all things! :D This week, to juxtapose our previous weeks of many referrals, tons of lessons taught, and topped off with a cherry of a baptism, Sister Stephens and I were humbled and realized that even when we're doing our best, there may still be things that don't work out and that's okay! This week we taught half as many lessons and a lot of people wouldn't respond to us either over the phone or at the door- but we were still very blessed. 

One of those blessings was President Smith announcing that missionaries can now go to the beach without needing a member to drive them! Sister Stephens and I jumped on that and went there two mornings to go running right on the shore! The beaches here are so beautiful! White sands with emerald ocean. I'll have to take pictures when we go back next time. I serve in such a beautiful area!

Another blessing: We had dinner twice with member families this week! Once was with the Prices, a young married couple- Sister Price is in the Young Women's presidency and she's so sweet. We had rice and chicken sauce with peas and blueberry cake for dessert. Another night we had dinner with the Brills- Brother Brill is a chaplain on Eglin air force base, and is an amazing speaker as we found out in church last week. He and his wife met at Utah State (so they had fun when they found out that I went there...) and they have five awesome kids, two of whom are on missions right now! We had super tasty breakfast for dinner with them. Their daughter Alivia went to teach Jim and Vicky with us this week- she did awesome! It was her first time teaching with the missionaries, and boy is she a natural! She answers our questions really simply but sincerely, makes good brief comments, and shares personal experiences that invite the Spirit! She's such a sweet girl! 

On Wednesday, Sister Stephens and I were the adults present at Young Women's because all the leaders were either out of town or picking up Noah Mcsheehy in Tallahassee. Noah just got back from his mission, and there at least two dozen Mcsheehy's in the ward- he's all everyone has talked about for the past two months. We got to meet him at the ward service activity on Saturday- he's definitely a freshly returned missionary, haha! :) 

On Thursday, we were biking to the apartment to be picked up for our dinner appointment, and as we passed the Choctawtchee High school, we saw a man with a truck in the parking lot that was pulling a load full of watermelons that he was selling. We passed him, but I called out to Sister Stephens that I was going to turn around to talk to him. I went back, and said that I wanted to buy a watermelon and did he take debit cards? He said no, he only took cash, but asked how I was planning on taking a watermelon with my bike. I said I was going to put it in my bag. He laughed and said, "really? Do you think it would fit?" I said yes, so he said I could try fitting it in my bag. My bag's not that big, but I managed to squeeze a medium sized oblong watermelon into it! He was so amused by that and by my determination, he said I could keep it for free! How sweet! Then Sister Stephens, quick on her toes, said, "We can't give you money, but we can give you Jesus!" :D He laughed at that, but totally talked with us for about ten minutes as we got to know him. His name was Chad, and he lives in the area, but has a watermelon farm in Alabama and sells them every summer. We gave him a pass-a-long card with our number on it, and he said he'd watch the video, and then we were off! Thank goodness our apartment is just around the corner, because boy was it awkward and heavy to have the watermelon  in my shoulder bag! It was quite the sight! :)

Another blessing: The elders handed off one of their investigators to us, a single mom named Sarah who said she'd be more comfortable if the sisters taught her. Holy cow, does she have a strong relationship with God! She's so prepared, she just needs some encouragement and invitations. 

This week I've been thinking about how I can become the person God needs me to be. I found this awesome quote that I love: "We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day." That happens as we rely on the enabling, strengthening and cleansing powers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Through Him, our weaknesses can become strengths and we can become more and more like Him each day. And as we come closer to Christ, we come closer to Heavenly Father.