July 26, 2014: Hello out there!

Standard

Today is P-day which means relaxation and spare time day….or so I thought -__- haha. We have been runnin around all day and still have so much to do! So I’ll maybe have time to finish this email…

The week was overall wonderful, I’ll try to recap it the best I can but honestly it’ll probably be in no particular order. but hopefully will make sense.

I’m now used to being called Sister Hale, I haven’t forgotten Sister Trommlitz’s name for almost a week, and I’ve mostly stopped checking for my phone in my pocket! Adjustment is good.

One of mine and Sister Lundberg’s goals at the MTC was to play basketball at some point. The main gym has been closed but it finally opened and we got to play today!!!

We have gotten to go to the temple twice while here, today was my last day for 18 months I guess! I really missed being able to talk to Daxson and Christy about things today, and I know that’s gonna be hard for me, but I’m so grateful for how many times I’ve been able to run over to their apartment while in Provo and talk things through or just vent. Shout out to you two, hope Germany is so wonderful for you! Send me pictures!!!!!!!

Going to the temple as a missionary is so fun because the workers are so excited to see Sister missionaries there. Last week when we got done and were getting ready to leave, I kind of had a bigger realization that I’m a representative of Jesus Christ. I stood up straighter, and thought about how this means I really need to see people the way Christ sees them. I had only ever thought of representing Christ in terms of rules/obedience, like missionaries need to act mature and respectable so that they give their church a good name. But it is way way way much more than that. I am constantly reading scriptures and praying (seriously this place is the grand central praying station, I’ve never prayed so much in my life) and thinking about my investigators and through all this I am learning to look at people the way Christ does, with love and with concern and with a desire to serve and help people. So we were leaving the temple and I was just so grateful for the opportunity to be a Sister missionary and to represent Christ. And then I thought of who to write down on the prayer list and I started writing down girls from my treatment center and just started bawling, haha. I just love and miss those girls so much! And I want them prayed for!

So I was kinda wondering when the way things are would cause problems with my snarky feminist attitude, and that started happening this week. haha. Luckily for my companion it was confined to just a little sarcasm during our Sisters dress code meeting (“oh I thought ‘attract attention’ was kind of the definition of attractive” after being told to be attractive without attracting attention) (no wonder all these Sisters are confused about how to get dressed in the morning). Or me righteously indignantly helping rearrange chairs after the “lovely Sisters” were told to “exit first and make your way to the next room while the Elders move the tables and chairs.” Or the Elder who couldn’t just keep walking….. “PLEASE let me BE a GENTLEMAN for you” (no really I’m already holding the door open, um just go through, okay thanks. um okay, now you’re pushing me through. it’s fine. just–just stop.). Also I was wondering when/if focusing on the good of the gospel would be a problem for me, like if it would bug me to be ignoring tricky stuff about the church. All these things have been a little bit of a problem but honestly being here is wonderful. It is wonderful to focus on the good of the gospel and I’m so grateful for this time, because the core of the gospel is why I’m here anyway. Faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end…these are the five things they brainwash you into remembering here!! Actually these are the things the Spirit teaches you here! I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve had at the MTC. I’m so grateful for my district and teachers. I’m so grateful I get to wake up before 6:30 every morning and not nap at all because I’m learning so much and it is wonderful. For those couple days that I kind of had a bad attitude/sad attitude about a few things, I realized I could keep picking things apart and being upset about it, but I’d be missing out on the things I get to learn here. Every good day and good experience I have with my companion or roommates or district or myself make it worth it.

Quick story about Elder Lindsey in my district: he has had a heart defect for a long time and got sent to the ER earlier this week. They told him they have a nodule (sp?) in his heart and needed heart surgery Friday (yesterday) night and that he’d probably be sent home. We want him to be able to serve in Texas SO BAD. We made a plan called Operation Miracle and fasted for him and prayed lots and learned a lot about faith–God has a plan for us of course but he wants us to pray to him, and there’s things that just won’t happen unless you pray for them. When he went yesterday, they did more x-rays and there was good news/bad news. The nodule was gone!! But he has problems in his lungs now and will need more faith and a miracle for those, too. For now, they said he’ll have to stay at the MTC an extra week but hopefully get to go on to Texas. Wonderful.

I’m not here because I think this is probably a good idea, or because I’m trying out something I don’t have much confidence in. The hard experiences and moments are hard enough that if I didn’t think God and my Savior were for real, I’d be out of here. But God has been good to me and He teaches me through the scriptures and He comforts me with the Spirit and these things are real. I still have my things I have to work through but I am sustained by the things I’ve been blessed with.

OK I have got to go. Still can’t send pictures, hopefully next week!

See you in Tennessee!!

– Sister V. Hale

Advertisements

From last week…July 19, 2014

Standard

I’ve only been here a few days but it really does feel like forever!!!

My companion is Sister Trommlitz and I love her so much. It’s really weird because you feel way more connected to people after a day than you do after a month in real-person-world. Soon it became apparent though that I couldn’t remember her name for the LIFE of me for longer than 5 seconds. Then I had the bright idea to pray that I’d be able to remember her name. And guess what!!! From that time forward, I still forgot her name every 5 seconds. So I wrote it in my journal and all my papers and say it in my head whenever I’m bored. And today I haven’t forgotten it a single time!!

I was falling asleep during personal study and then came across Matthew 11:28-30: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…learn of me…and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” So I though “Oh, awesome, I can just read some more about Jesus and learn of him and I’ll get the Spirit and be refreshed and have more energy!” So I prayed that would happen. And guess what!!! It didn’t work. haha. I stayed awake but couldn’t concentrate or enjoy it. Thursday it was just hard because we didn’t have gym time and we were sitting so much, so even though I had my donut pillow for my fractured tailbone, it killed by the end of the day. I couldn’t stay awake and I was sick and in pain and just needed a nap. I made it to the end of the day though and got to say, “It feels so good to be tired after a day of hard work.”

Something I didn’t even think would be hard is not knowing any missionaries here! I forgot that I’m old and everyone else is so young! It makes me so jealous of the people who know people here. Sister Trommlitz sees someone she knows literally every 15 minutes. Maybe every 15 seconds in the lunch room. Thursday morning at breakfast in the cafeteria I was really wishing I could just see a familiar face and being kind of sad about it, haha, and then walks in my good friend Blake Northrup!! (he works custodial.) I had to run over and we great-big-handshaked each other and I got a “How the Sister Hale are you?” and it made my day!! I also saw another friend Daniel from my ward right when I checked in on Wednesday. So at least I have friends who work here, if not missionaries. Makes me feel less isolated! I’m used to it though and have stopped looking for familiar faces in missionaries.

So my district! There’s Sister Lundberg and Sister Jensen and me and Sister Trommlitz–all four of us live together and we’re all headed to Knoxville! The Elders in our district are headed to Texas. Our district leader is Elder Taumoe-anga from Tonga. The best thing about our district is that everyone is so humble! No know-it-alls! Elder T (I can’t pronounce his name and it takes too long to type each time haha) is just so humble and speaks softly and from the heart. All the Sisters except me are 19, and all the Elders except one are fresh out of high school. FRESH OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL. Everyone is so young!! So the district is taught together in the same classroom and we eat together. Yesterday was good for us as a district. We had an extra hour, so we all shared a favorite scripture, an experience with it, and our testimony about it. I shared this from D&C 46:

“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.”

I talked about hearing Bro. Griffith’s institute lesson where he said there’s a problem in the church when only the “I know”-ers bear their testimonies, because then the “I believe”-ers or the “I’m not so sure”-ers feel like this isn’t the church for them because they don’t have an “I know” testimony. But Jesus himself tells us over and over to believe in him, just believe and follow him. That is good enough if that’s where you’re at. I know that it doesn’t mean you aren’t as good or spiritual or try hard enough just because your testimony is different from others! You are great for being where you’re at! I shared how that thought really helped me when I was an “I’m not so sure”-er. This church is for imperfect people, but even more, for unknowing people. It’s a church of faith and hope and love and belief and service, for those who say “I know” and those who just want to know or want to believe.

Wow I only have a couple minutes left! I’ll finish by telling about yesterday! Yesterday was so much better than Thursday!! We got to exercise so I lead the Sisters in my district in Insanity, haha, and it was great. I had energy for the whole day, we grew closer as a district, and Sis. Trommlitz and I taught our investigator Brother Casey. When Sis. T and I were planning our lesson, we talked about what we wanted to teach–the Restoration. She said we should talk about the Book of Mormon and challenge him to read and pray about it. I said “ehhh I don’t think we’ll have time for that.” Then we had personal study and I felt like we should teach Brother Casey about the Book of Mormon and make sure that’s an important focus, and that we should have him read the last two paragraphs of the introduction after the title page. I told Sis. T that I had a change of heart and agreed with her about the Book of Mormon, and that I felt like we should have him read those paragraphs, and she pointed at her journal and had written the same thing!! It’s so cool to work as a companionship and learn together and see how the Spirit adjusts your plans so that you know your investigator’s needs and have unity.

The MTC is all about love!! It’s a lot different than I expected! Everything that they teach us starts out with learning to love the person in front of you. Every exercise or role-play we do is focused on loving the person and not just telling them what you know. Last night was so wonderful, our teacher Sister Smith is so sincere and so loving. She has taught me so much about loving the person in front of you and really trying to discern their needs. I’m so grateful for Thursday for being hard and for Friday for being awesome! AND TODAY FOR BEING P-DAY.

Quotes of the Week:

“I’ve been in my mind too much today…” – Elder Lindsey

“We can end early cuz I felt the Spirit.” -Elder Taumoe-anga

“Good luck if you don’t have charity for the person!” – Sister Smith

Ok I have pictures but I can’t send them or even open them on these computers -__- oh well it can wait til Tennessee. Thanks for all the DearElder letters!! I got like 6 of them! Thanks Tansy and Jacob and Aunt Lucille and Sandy Heathcote and Mom twice!! That seriously made my day! Ok gotta go! I love you all! 🙂 🙂 🙂

– Sister V. Hale

Pre-Mission blog post/testing/is this working?/Farewell talk

Standard

jesus kids

The Two Great Commandments and Power through Christ

I recently attended a non-denominational church service at the place I work, and the pastor was talking about the power we receive through belief in Christ. Belief in Christ brings us the power to serve, to love, and to become the children of God.

In Moroni 7:33 we find the same promise: “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”

The two commandments that are MOST expedient or necessary in Christ are found in Matthew 22, where we are told to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” as well as to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” We need to understand that the commandment to love should be our number one priority in life. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” I’d like to focus on the power we receive through Christ that can help us obey the commandment to love.

Individually

On an individual level, what does it mean to love God and to love your neighbor?

As luck would have it, I found a scripture that outright tells us how we must act if we truly love God. John 14:15 simply states, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” We’re also left with what is said in Matthew 25:40, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” In other words, we serve and love God by serving and loving our neighbor. I’ll leave it at that for the time being and talk about how we as individuals must learn to love our neighbor.

Loving your neighbor includes loving both your friends AND your enemies, and everyone in between. I love some of the points made by C.S. Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity, about love. He talks about the difference between what he calls a worldly person trying to love, and between a person who is trying to love the way Christ loves. He says,

“The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds him liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning.”

I love that because the principle is so true. Love grows as you treat people right.

He goes on to say,

“Some people are ‘cold’ by temperament; that may be a misfortune for them, but it is no more a sin than having a bad digestion is a sin; and it does not cut them out from the chance, or excuse them from the duty, of learning charity. The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more.”

I think we’ll all agree that there are certain people in our lives that are more likeable than others. Because of this, if our goal is to love our neighbor, and if our neighbor includes everyone, friends and enemies and everyone in between, then it’ll take a lot more than our natural abilities and tendencies to achieve this goal. We have the perfect example of someone who treated everyone right—that is, Jesus Christ. I think there is great power in having an example or a role model, but for me, the power between a role model and a Savior have become distinct in my life.

The pastor who was talking about the power we receive as we believe in Christ—the power to become His children, to be born again, to make lasting life changes, to love more purely—made me reflect on how my belief in Christ has changed over the past several months. I’d like to share my belief and testimony I have today, that Christ gives us power that a simple role model could not. From the time I grew up until about a year and a half ago, I was a “true believing Mormon” and had no reasons to doubt the religion I grew up in, or God, or Christ. I was filling out my mission papers and excited to join the throng of fresh young missionaries. About a month after I made this decision, a series of concerns about the church led me through a serious faith crisis. I won’t go into those concerns right now, but when I was at the point where I did not believe in the church at all and had definitely given up the mission plan, I was also severely at odds with the possibility of Christ being a Savior and of God even existing.

This time of my life is very precious to me, however, because I know I learned a lot about loving my neighbor by learning to be less judgmental. I loved seeing a variety of people, of opinions, of lifestyles, because I had never felt free to appreciate them before. I had been too quick to judge. So I started to see people in a new way and explore perspectives and ideas that continue to bless me today. At this time I thought a lot about Christ. Although I did not believe in Him as my Savior, I still believed everything he taught about loving your neighbor, everything he taught about love being the most important thing in life. I still tried my hardest to be a good person and hold on to love. Christ was my role model because all I really had left to believe in was love, and Christ is all about love.

It would take too long to summarize why the heck I am where I am today, back in the church and leaving on a mission in just hours, so I’ll skip all that and get to my point. I said I learned to love my neighbor by being less judgmental, and that’s true. I was progressing without believing in Christ as a Divine Being. What I’ve realized since then is the power and help I get from Christ now that is different from the help I got from him as a role model. Christ enables us to love people better than we can by ourselves. He helps us by changing our desires and hearts. I’m grateful that any time my desires are unholy or unloving, I can pray for help to change. I believe this is different from following a role model, even from asking “What would Jesus do?” because the help we get from God is about our desires, not necessarily our actions.

I’ve had a friend’s words on my mind this week—I remember him saying, “When I think about Christ, I just feel better. I stop thinking about myself, my schedule, my problems, and start thinking about others.” Christ is an example to us, but more than that. He is our Savior and wants to save us from the burden of being self-centered, judgmental, and lonely. Because we believe in Him, we are given the power to love and overcome.

As a ward

We learn to love better in our wards in the Church. We are put into wards or congregations not based on our similar interests, our similar talents, or similar testimonies. We are put into these wards geographically. Eugene England talks on how being placed in this situation helps us to grow.

“Oppositions in the church… push us toward a new kind of being. LET US CONSIDER why this is so. In the life of the true Church, there are constant opportunities for all to serve, especially to learn to serve people we would not nor­mally choose to serve—or possibly even associate with—and thus opportunities to learn to love unconditionally. There is constant encouragement, even pressure, to be “active”: to have a calling” and thus to have to grapple with relationships and management, with other people’s ideas and wishes, their feel­ings and failures; to attend classes and meetings and to have to listen to other people’s sometimes misinformed or prejudiced notions and to have to make some constructive response; to have leaders and occasionally to be hurt by their weakness and blindness, even unrighteous dominion; and then to be made a leader and find that you, too, with all the best intentions, can be weak and blind and unrighteous. Church involvement teaches us compassion and patience as well as courage and dis­cipline. It makes us responsible for the personal and marital, physical, and spiritual welfare of people we may not already love (or may even heartily dislike), and thus we learn to love them. It stretches and challenges us, though disappointed and exasperated, in ways we would not otherwise choose to be— and thus gives us a chance to be made better than we might choose to be, but ultimately need and want to be.”

[full essay: http://www.eugeneengland.org/why-the-church-is-as-true-as-the-gospel]

As we seek help in loving the people in our wards, perhaps we will realize the person we thought was stuck up is maybe just shy at first, or the person we thought was boring is actually really clever or really funny, and we just needed to get to know them first. Serving, teaching, and interacting with people in your ward gives you an opportunity to grow. You are learning to love the way Christ did and does, because he loves everyone.

As a church

I want to again read the last sentence of those verses on loving God and loving your neighbor. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” This commandment to love is serious business.

Thankfully God seems to have made the two most important commandments pretty simple and easy to follow…right?

Here is where I want to talk a little more about loving God. So we’ve talked about how Christ says if we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments. Obeying commandments honestly takes a lot of humility and a lot of thought. Some commandments are simple to understand, but many are not simple and straightforward. We get faced with decisions and put in different situations that put not our blind obedience to the test, but our adaptability and our creativity. God does not ask us to be cookie-cutter disciples; he did not make us to be that way. He has not given us an exact formula for every decision we need to make. I think obedience, as well as situations where the answer isn’t clear, can be judged by if your actions help you obey the two great commandments—that of loving God and loving your neighbor. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Because we are all given the same two great commandments, but because we are all different human beings, it can be confusing when those around us have different perspectives or fail to live up to what we perceive as “the right way.” We can get caught in the trap of unrighteous judgment, or even self-righteousness. As a church, we are the body of Christ. We need to believe that each of us is needed and wanted, not despite our differences, but because of our differences.

The Church of Jesus Christ was restored because a young man named Joseph Smith desired to know where he could find a church where the people loved each other as well as those not of their faith.

Joseph Smith cannot be credited with creating a church where love is the most important commandment, Christ gets the credit for that, but because of his desire to be forgiven, to know of God’s love, and to love those around him, he was entrusted to restore the Priesthood to the earth and recover the Book of Mormon. These things have brought me to a greater belief in Christ and have given me the power Christ says we’ll have if we’ll just believe in Him.

The greatest power we receive through belief in Christ is the power of His Atonement. We can repent and not only feel lifted from our mistakes, but receive strength and comfort that helps us change and transform our lives and desires.

Moroni 8: 26: “And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.”

I’m grateful for the Atonement and that it is possible to repent and feel of God’s love. It is the sweetest thing.

The Gospel of Christ

Here are a few words from the testimony of Thomas B. Griffith:

“What drives the faith of a Christian is a belief that what the New Testament reports happened on Easter Sunday actually happened: a man named Jesus of Nazareth died, but came back to life in bodily form as God. If that happened, it changes everything, and we must live our lives to take account of that fact. And so it is with the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

I’d like to kind of echo the testimony that he continues. I go to church and I’m a member not because it’s exciting—to be honest, church is really good a lot of the time but kinda boring sometimes. I’m also not a member because everything that’s said by our beloved friends and neighbors in church lessons is absolutely perfect and true—because it’s not always. I go to church because I am convinced the gospel of Jesus Christ is real, the power of the priesthood is real, the events surrounding the Savior in the New Testament are real, and the Book of Mormon is the word of God that can bring us all closer to Christ.

Elder Bednar spoke at a stake conference while I was living in Provo and he encouraged all of us in our study of the Book of Mormon and look for the phrase “in the strength of the Lord,” or anything that means the same thing, and to highlight it. I would encourage anyone else to do the same thing during personal or family scripture study because I learned so much by doing it! You will come to recognize the kind of power, strength, and comfort Christ gives you.

Those who have a hard time believing in Christ or having a testimony of the gospel, I’d like to encourage you. I don’t want to say anything that would seem to diminish the validity or importance of your struggles, or non-struggles, or disbelief. Heaven knows I couldn’t take any “have more faith” rhetoric while I didn’t believe in the church. I don’t think that you are in any way deficient or wrong simply for not having a testimony—just as I know it was never a fault of mine, it was just something that happened to me. But I’d like to encourage you to follow Christ as a role model.

Because whether or not you believe in Christ as a Savior, he taught the most important thing for all of us, and that is love! As any of us try to be more like Jesus Christ, we will be blessed in so many aspects of our lives and relationships. This time we have right now with family, friends, and neighbors, is so short, and so important. Let’s all seek for the power of Christ to help us serve better, love better, and be better.

I’m grateful I’m taking off to Tennessee and can’t wait to see God’s hand and power in my life and those I’ll be working with!