Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Merry Crestview Christmas!

This has been such a wonderful week! It's been so joyful to be a missionary during the Christmas season. I've loved it so much!

On Monday we had dinner with our ward mission leader and his family, the Tews. They're a fun, loud family. On Tuesday we were eating our lunch at the church when a member asked if she could swing by and bring us something. She arrived with about four bags full of groceries for us! We were so shocked and grateful, as we had both run out of money for the month (don't worry though, we hadn't been about to starve or anything near that. Our cupboards are chock full of food.) We went to Sister Steele's home where she had invited sweet Doloris over, who is a less active member. We had a lesson and made peanut brittle together, which she gave us to take home. For dinner, we ate with the Ferris's who made an incredible Southern style meal for us. Sister Saunders said the family opened up to us during dinner in ways they hadn't before, so that was neat.

Wednesday was the CHRISTMAS CONFERENCE  with this half of the mission!! It was absolutely wonderful! We received some training, shared miracles we've seen, read scriptures on the birth of Jesus Christ, listened to musical numbers- I was one of four Silent Nights, haha- then had a fabulous dinner, each district performed a skit- our skit actually didn't bellyflop and was actually pretty funny! We acted out different scenarios of missionaries skyping with their families- one with a missionary that had just come out to the field, one where they and the family cried the whole time, one where everything had changed at home, and one where the missionary tried to teach her family a lesson. Many skits were so funny! It was good to see my friends from Fort Walton. We also played minute-to-win-it games. Such a fun time! I love being a missionary!

Since the conference ended fairly late in the evening and it was an hour and a half from Crestview in Pensacola, we stayed the night in Gulf Breeze with the sisters there. It was super special for Sister Saunders because that was her first area and we stayed in her first apartment. She was so happy! In the morning we woke up early and ran to the dock nearby, watching the sunrise. On the way home, we stopped to see a family Sister Saunders knew, and it was amazing to see how they were able to help each other. We drove home, saw a sweet member named Shirley who recently went to the temple, had dinner, then went to see a sister in the ward whose husband is at a rehabilitation center from an accident. After we sang them some Christmas hymns, we went to the next room over where two patients were visiting, and sang for them, too. One of them was friends with Shirley, who we had seen just hours before! She is interested in meeting with us when she has recovered!

On Friday, which I call Christmas Adam, we raked leaves at a members' home, then went to the baptism of a members' granddaughter. We had dinner with the Fetters, who invited us to come to their home for Christmas morning! We also met an awesome man named Buddy who told us his life story. On Christmas Eve, we delivered treats (compiled from the abundance of treats that people have been giving us the past two weeks) to some less active members, and had dinner with the Curdy family, which made me so happy. They had ham and funeral potatoes for dinner, pecan pie for dessert, and for their Christmas Eve tradition, they read "The Night Before Christmas," which is what my family reads on Christmas Eve!

Our Christmas miracle was this: on Christmas Eve, Sister Saunders and I met a man named Willy who told us about how God has helped him overcome his challenges in life. He is one of the ministers at a Pentecostal church, and he has always wanted to go to Utah where he has a friend, and he loves the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He was very open, and when we invited him to come to church on Christmas, he said he would come. We sure hoped that he would!

Christmas day was so wonderful! At 7 am we went to the Curdys to watch their four kids open their presents, which was the most entertaining thing. Then we went to the Harts for cinnamon rolls, and they so generously gave us some gifts. We went to church for sacrament meeting. We called Willy, who said he was one his way!!! But he wasn't there when it started, and he wasn't there halfway through, either, though he kept texting us saying he was almost there. Finally, 40 minutes into the meeting, with just 20 minutes left, he showed up!!! He left in the middle of his own church service and his car had overheated, but he came anyway and felt the spirit in sacrament meeting!! And now we're meeting with him on Tuesday, and he is very interested in our unique message. Best Christmas present ever!

We had lunch with a family, then I got to skype my family!! That was actually the best Christmas present!! It was a very happy time, and my best friend Camie surprised me by showing up, too! It was a very uplifting time with lots of laughter. That evening, the Crestview missionaries gathered for a devotional and white elephant exchange. It was so joyful to be with so many families during the holiday season. And although the Christmas season has passed to the world, we can and must continue to remember Jesus Christ every day and to celebrate His birth and His life by the way we live our own lives. I love you all!

 Christmas morning with the Curdy family!


Sister Saunders and Sister Jamison

Nicky's new dress for Christmas

Oh Chrismtas tree!

The night before Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

December 19, 2016

What a week! Monday and Tuesday were spent saying good bye to the wonderful people I love in Fort Walton. Monday evening we had a super fun dinner at the Birds' house with the elders. We made homemade sushi and it was sooo tasty! On Tuesday we had a lesson with Rod, who is down to one cigarette every two days and feels confident he can quit by Christmas! I am so excited to follow up on that! On Wednesday, I finished throwing my stuff into suitcases (I feel like I have almost as much stuff as Sister Stephens did when she went to Tallahassee, and she had been out for over a year, yikes!), said good bye to Sister Trawick, :( and Sister Hilton- who had finished her mission and was going home- and I became temporary companions as we drove to the transfer location in Crestview. I pray for Sister Trawick every day and hope so much that she is adjusting well to her new companion, because that is a difficult adjustment to make. Her new companion Sister Ramadahr is so awesome, though, and I know they will continue to do wonderful work in Fort Walton. We spent some good time getting to know the sisters who are new to the zone while we waited for the transfer van to come, bringing missionaries that will be serving in the Fort Walton Beach Zone. 

These past few days have been wonderful! I love being companions with Sister Saunders!! She reminds me of one of my best friends Sarah Jensen from high school, which is really fun. On Thursday we helped serve food at a soup kitchen, which was truly humbling. We talked to a guy named Jimmy who has made a lot of changes in his life to come to know Christ. We had dinner with the wonderful Vaun family. On Friday we went to bingo at a care center where a less active member works. Then we helped a member name Jenoa organize her house. Then, we did family history with a gentleman who serves at the soup kitchen with us, Joe Barley. He has a lot of European royalty in his line, which is nice, since they keep good records, relatively. Then the craziest thing happened. We were just going back and back on one of his lines, going waaaay back before Christ. Suddenly, we saw a name that said, "tribe leader for Judah." Judah? We clicked back again. JUDAH. THE JUDAH. SON OF JACOB. As in the Judah in the Bible!!! Eventually it led back to ABRAHAM. Then we kept going back, further and further...until it got to NOAH, then down a few... SETH... and then..." ADAM, son of God." and EVE. Born: Garden of Eden. He could literally trace his ancestry back to Adam and Eve! I've only heard stories of that happening, but it literally happened! WOW!

Yesterday I was asked last minute to speak briefly in sacrament meeting about being a member missionary. During the sacrament, I was tempted to think about what I was going to say, but instead, I decided to think about the Savior, trusting that the Spirit would guide my remarks. And it did! It seems foreign to feel at peace while speaking in sacrament meeting, but I strangely felt so much peace. I felt that the Spirit was truly speaking through me, and I felt Him powerfully confirm to me the truth of what I said. It was an answer to my prayer that very morning, asking for the Spirit to reconfirm to me my beliefs. Additionally, Sister Saunders said that what I had said helped her so much. The Holy Ghost is remarkable! We are so blessed to have such an incredible gift from our Heavenly Father than enables us to come to personally know Him and His Son Jesus Christ. I know They live! I know Christ was born so that He could set a perfect example for us of how to obey Heavenly Father and live a life full of joy and return to live with our Heavenly Parents. Remember Him as you celebrate Christmas this week. Remember to strive to be even as He is. I love you all! 

Monday, December 19, 2016


December 12, 2016
This was such a wonderful week! Thank you all for the birthday wishes, letters, and emails! I am so blessed to have such supportive and loving family and friends!
On Tuesday, the missionaries had the awesome opportunity to be in the Fort Walton Beach light parade! It was in the evening, so dark outside, and all the floats were covered in Christmas lights! The Fort Walton missionaries joined the cub scout packs from the first and second wards. We had a banner that we painted with "#LighttheWorld: LDS Cub Scouts" and the pack numbers. We walked, and also had a little wagon covered in lights where we stashed the candy canes we handed out. We also handed out ALL of our Light the World pass-along cards, (we had to follow the Spirit to know who really needed the cards) then when those ran out, flyers for our free car wash, pamphlets, other pass-along cards, and even a Book of Mormon. One little girl that I gave a candy cane to asked, "Are you princess Ana?" Hahah, what? :D It was super duper fun!
On Wednesday we had a lesson with Rod and Kevin McSheehy, where he accepted to be baptized in January!!! It has been so incredible to watch Rod's heart change and see him become more and more converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He also committed to quit smoking by Christmas! He is incredible! He wants the blessings of the restored gospel so much in his life. That evening, we had a combined dinner with the elders at the Wheeldons. Then, Sister Trawick and I went to young women's where we made real wreaths! So fun!
Thursday we weekly planned. On Friday, I had the best birthday ever!!! Sister Trawick baked up my box of pumpkin scones for me for breakfast, then we helped prepare lunch for the homeless at the Methodist church. After lunch, we biked to teach Susan and Sister Vaughan. As we were biking home, we saw a woman sweeping leaves off of her porch. I stopped, and asked, "Can we help you?" "Oh, sorry, no," she said, and went inside. But I felt prompted to ignore her, so we biked around the corner to borrow rakes from Sister Tedone, came back, and started raking her yard. It was freezing outside, but we were having a good time. Then she came out and in her Oriental accent, said, "Oh, no no no, stop, you make me feel bad!" But we weren't done yet, so we told her we would continue. :) She then said, "Well, I know you don't drink coffee or tea, but I'll make you some hot chocolate." It was so sweet of her! She invited us inside, where she had hot chocolate and soft pretzels for us. She began telling us how she grew up in Taiwan and went to high school right next to an LDS church, where she met many missionaries. She had many questions, and eventually it led to us teaching her about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the incredible knowledge we have of God's plan for us. She opened her heart to us, told of us her challenges, and she felt the Spirit as we taught, testified, and comforted her. It was incredible. She thanked us again and again for coming that evening. She was so excited to receive a Book of Mormon, and promised us she will read it. We want so much to go back and continue teaching her, but she said she'll have to talk to her husband first. It was an incredible experience of how being lights to others can help us to lead them to the Light, Jesus Christ.
Next, we went to the Brocks for some quick dessert before heading to volley ball. Sister Brock made me chocolate cake for my birthday! The fun didn't stop there, though. When Sister Trawick and I were home for the night, we got a call from President Smith. He told me happy birthday, then said he had transfer news. He told me I am going to be a Sister Training Leader in Crestview, just 30 minutes away. My companion and I (Sister Saunders, who I LOVE) will be going on exchanges with each set of sisters in our zone. Funny birthday present, President! But actually, I am really excited. I'm going to miss Fort Walton sooo much- it's home to me now, and I love the people here so much- but I'm really excited for this new opportunity.
Saturday, we left the apartment bright and early to put up the signs for the free car wash. Then, we went to a baptism for one of the 1st ward elders' investigator, which was awesome. From 10 to 1 was the free car wash! If I haven't mentioned it yet, it was an idea I had to have a free car wash as a fun service/ member and missionary event and opportunity to share the gospel. It turned out so well! Many members donated cleaning supplies and helped wash cars. All 10 missionaries were there, and we wore our awesome Light the World t-shirts. It was so fun! We must have washed 20-30 cars. After that, we helped set up for the Christmas party, which was Saturday evening. It was wonderful! Delicious food, a classic Luke 2 reenactment, and I accompanied while we all sang Christmas hymns.
That about wraps it up! Focusing on serving others for the Light the World initiative has brought me so much joy. I've loved hearing members share how serving has helped bring peace and perspective to their Christmas activities, and helped them remember the Savior. Every day, keep looking for opportunities to cheer others up and lighten their load. Merry Christmas!

Light the world day at the beach (a while back)

Light the World free car wash!

 Elders with santa!

 Never too old to sit on santas lap!

Former companions/new companions

Silly Elders

 Ward Christmas party

The Sister's Christmas tree!

The wedding cake for Yogi and Tess, after their Temple sealing

Sweet Sisters

Nicky's birthday breakfast

Christmas wreaths 

Nickys bday cards from her nieces

Found a painting of Italy!

The light parade

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Give your all to Him Who gave His all to you

It's crazy that December is already here! I love the Christmas season so much!

On Tuesday night, Sister Stephens and her companion came from Tallahassee for the sisters' conference the following day, and stayed over. It was so fun to see her again! On Wednesday we had a conference with all the sister missionaries in the Florida Tallahassee mission! (which is about 64 of us). President and Sister Smith were there, and it was incredible! The theme was "Anchor your soul in Christ," and we talked a lot about coming to know the Savior more personally, feeling His love, doing our best, and having our efforts strengthened through His Atonement. The love, unity, and Spirit felt with those sisters was so powerful! To close, President Smith sang "His Hands" and I accompanied him on the piano. It was so sweet! I love President and Sister Smith so much! They're incredible examples of loving and serving each other. I also got to see my MTC companion Sister Wall for the first time since June!! For lots of pictures of the conference, go to (the mission blog).

Also on Wednesday, we had a lesson with Rod where he really poured out his heart to us. The stress and contention in his house during Thanksgiving really tempted him to go to drugs for relief, which he hadn't touched for years, and he gave in to it. He expressed the shame and guilt he felt, but also the forgiveness from God he has felt as he's repenting, though his wife hasn't forgiven him yet. We talked about being strengthened against Satan's temptations by daily prayer and scripture  study, as well as attending church. His desire to follow Christ is truly stronger than it's ever been. He has been praying about baptism and said he knows God wants him to be baptized very soon. Guess what?! HE CAME TO CHURCH ON SUNDAY! For the first time in the 6 months or so that he's been taught! Finally, he didn't have work and he found the motivation to come. He LOVED it! Kevin McSheehy sat with him in sacrament meeting, where he listened intently to each of testimonies born. Then he went to Sunday school and Priesthood, too! And he stayed for the linger longer! He said he thoroughly enjoyed it, and said he wants "to keep doing this." He is positive that as he continues on this path, that he will be a positive example to his wife and that her heart will soften. I agree, Rod!

For the world wide day of service on Thursday, all the Fort Walton Beach missionaries helped organize clothes at the Salvation army thrift store, which was fun! Sister Bird came with us to visit Sarah Miller, who came to church out of the blue last Sunday with her three little girls! We hadn't recently seen her or anything, she just showed up, saying her schedule had changed and her daughters had begged her to come to church, so they did! We had a wonderful visit with her. Thursday evening we had dinner with the Birds. Sister Bird wants to set me up with a missionary they knew in Germany, who is now attending school at Utah State... oh dear!

On Friday, we sang Christmas songs at the care center. One of the men there played his harmonica with us again! We later had a lesson with Jim and Vicki, who finally came back from their cruise! It was so good to see them- I feel like they're my surrogate grandparents!

On Saturday, we placed fliers on people's door knobs from the Red Cross for free smoke detectors. Then we all went to the beach to try contacting people about the Light the World initiative, but it was chilly out, so not many people there. But, Tess and Yogi were sealed in the Birmingham temple on Saturday!!!!! They are so wonderful, I love them! The next day at the linger longer, there was a wedding cake for them. SO sweet and joyful! That is truly what we hope for people when we invite them to come unto Christ- we must have a vision and hope of them making their family eternal. That is truly the goal, to have families sealed together for time and all eternity, so they may experience true joy now and in the next life.

Last night as I was watching the Christmas devotional, I thought about how each of us must each pay a price to come to know the Savior. He gave everything- His will and His life, all that He had and was- for us, so that we can live again, and have the opportunity to have peace and joy in this life, and eternal life in the world to come. I love Mosiah 2:34: "ye are eternally indebted to your Heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are." The one thing we can give to Heavenly Father that is truly ours to give is our will. When God gave the gift of His beloved Son, He gave the gift of life, peace, joy, and salvation. How can you and I more fully yield our hearts to God and give Him our wills, to thank Him for that priceless gift? I love you all! Light the world!

go to to watch the video if you haven't yet! 

At the Sister mission conference

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Light the World!

This was such a wonderful week! SO many blessings and so much joy!

On Tuesday, our district decided that to increase the love we have for each other, and thus increase our love for God and our desire to obey Him the best we can, this week we focused on recognizing each others' strengths. Often, it is much easier to recognize others' weakness and shortcomings, but it is so rewarding to focus on the strengths- I've found a lot of happiness in seeking to do so!

On Wednesday, we had a zone training in Niceville. Our companionship was asked to bring an entree, so I decided to make funeral potatoes since the ones Sister Mathews had made just made me want my mom's. So I attempted to make them without my mom's recipe... I made them Tuesday evening, and put them in the oven Wednesday morning. Everything was going great- they looked and smelled good, and I took them out a few minutes before they were done to sprinkle on the crushed/buttery corn flakes, then put them back in. When I looked a few minutes later, they weren't quite as golden as I like, but time was running out, so I decided that I would turn the oven from 350 to broil very briefly to get the right goldeny goodness. I washed some dishes while I waited, and when I turned to the stove to check on the potatoes, I saw smoke coming out of the burners... I opened the oven and my funeral potatoes were ON FIRE! I made a commotion, pulled out the rack with the oven mitts, and blew out the fire. All the corn flakes were charred black! Thankfully they scraped off easily, so I put new ones on... the potatoes tasted a little smoky, but other than that they turned out okay. It was a miracle!

On Thanksgiving, we helped set up the meal that the first ward put on at the church. It was for anyone and everyone, whether or not they could bring something to share. It was humbling to be there with so many people who wouldn't have had much of a Thanksgiving otherwise. People donated so much food! There was everything- turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and most importantly, cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole. :) But I could hardly bring myself to eat dessert! I just thought about how sad it had made me to see Justin smoking again, and choosing to not listen any more when we were there to teach. But I had kept my side of the agreement, and ultimately the elders' pesterings to eat dessert and the temptations of the red velvet cake got the best of me, and I gave in. Sweets are not as good as I remember them! Anywho, Ruth and Tammy Tedone brought their friend Wendy, who I got to talk with. She accepted a Book of Mormon and interested in meeting with us!

After we helped clean up at the ward, we took some of the leftovers to Carol, who hadn't been able to come. She was really happy to see us and have the food. Then we went to our dinner appointment with the Ayers, a young family in the ward (which I had somehow saved room for). :) The second ward elders were there, too. It was awesome! And for dessert- oh boy: pumpkin cheesecake! That broke me back in to sweets. It was soooo delicious, and sure made up for all the pumpkin flavored things I had passed up.

I love this season so much! There are so many reasons to be joyful! This week I was reminded once again of the many incredible blessings that bring me and so many others so much JOY! Namely, number one, Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Because He chose to suffer for our every pain, sorrow, weakness, sin, and sickness in the ultimate act of pure love for Heavenly Father and for all of us, we can be cleansed and forgiven, comforted, and strengthened to endure and learn from challenges, strength to change from weak creatures to Christlike people who love and know God and do His will, so that some day we will be "even as He is." And so that we can experience JOY in the midst of it all, no matter what! I am so grateful for the knowledge that as we have faith, repent, are baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end, we can have access to the matchless power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and have true and lasting joy. Joy comes as we strive to be like Him, as we serve and love others as He did. I invite all of you to serve any one, any way, every day from December 1 to Christmas day, and be a means of bringing joy to others' lives. I love y'all! Merry Christmas!!!

Making those potatoes!

 Little puppy!
Spud derby!!