This week was super fantastic! Mostly because it was Christmas and I got to Skype my family! That was by far the best Christmas present! But I’ll get to that later.
Something I forgot to mention last week was that we visited the Baptist church on the 22nd for their Christmas program. Boy oh boy was that ever AWESOME! They had a bell choir, a voice choir and a band and a pianist who has her master’s degree in performance. WOWZERS! Besides that wow factor, I loved the music itself and I was VERY happy that we were able to visit another church. Some people seem to think you can’t feel the Spirit when you go to other churches, but the scriptures say that if there are two or three gathered in His name, He will be there. And if truth is being taught, the Spirit is going to manifest it to you. For me, it most often happens through music and the Christmas carols are great for bringing the Spirit. I love that. 🙂
Over the last couple of weeks, the more I’ve improved, the more I can recognize the Spirit letting me know what I should or shouldn’t be doing. It’s interesting to feel that and see that there are things that are good, better or best. I’m really working to always do the best things. I’m only human, so it’s difficult, but when I actually buckle down and do it, I feel so good and I can feel Heavenly Father’s love and strength so much more. There’s a pretty obvious difference when choosing between good and best. Amazing how that works, eh?
Something else I’ve recognized over the last few weeks is how important it is to gain relationships with the members of the ward where I’m serving. Previously, we’ve really focused on making sure we taught the investigators what they need to know, how to feel, etc etc. We’ve focused on picking up new investigators when we drop others. We’ve focused almost completely on the investigators needs. But we’ve neglected really getting to know the ward. We got to know a few of them pretty well, but it wasn’t until recently that we’ve really been going out of our way to visit them and see what the members need. We can’t do this work on our own, either the members or the full-time missionaries. If we take the time to get to know each other and actually work together, this work, the LORD’S work, is going to go a LOT faster. He’s prepared the way – you can see it from all the changes that have happened within the church and from all the conference addresses that the general authorities have given. He wants this work to MOVE. It’s not going to move if we don’t do anything about it and actually DO what He wants and NEEDS us to do. It can be scary to talk to your friends about the Gospel. But that’s not the only part of missionary work. Doing missionary work doesn’t have to mean inviting your friends to be baptized. It can be a simple thing: Posting on Facebook. Sharing a brief, two sentence spiritual thought. Sending them an uplifting text. Being an example. It’s really the best way to START being a missionary. Once you get comfortable with that, push your comfort zone a teeny bit farther. Study the scriptures and learn to LISTEN to what the Spirit is guiding you to say and do. Put your trust in the Lord because He really does know what He’s doing. 🙂
Okay, so I’m sure you’ve heard over and over again that bearing your testimony really strengthens your faith. If you’re anything like I was, you’ll be saying something like: “Yeah yeah. I know. That’s cool. :P” Well. Let me tell you from experience that I’ve now changed that attitude to something more like: “Wow. It really does. I want to do this more often!” Why? Because there were a few times this week when I was just simply bearing my testimony. I didn’t really think of what I was going to say, I just relied on the Lord to give me the words. I didn’t worry about what others would think of my testimony or if it would be strong enough for others to feel the Spirit, I just worried about what the Lord would think. We were talking to a potential and just getting to know him. He doesn’t have a religious background and doesn’t really think too much about whether there’s a God or not. Towards then end, I started to bear my testimony of Jesus Christ and what He’s done for me. I don’t really remember exactly what I said, but the reason I want to bear my testimony more often was because of his reaction. While we were just talking to him and getting to know him, he shifted his eyes and his feet all around. He was really nice and didn’t mind talking to us, but he didn’t seem SUPER interested. As soon as I started to bear my testimony, the shifting stopped and he just looked at me as I spoke. I could tell he was listening and when I finished, he quietly said, “Wow. I think that could be something I might be interested in.” There is no doubt in my mind that the Spirit was there and that he felt it. He may not have know what it was that he felt, but he recognized SOMETHING. This experience not only planted a tiny seed of faith, but it strengthened my faith and my testimony that Jesus Christ IS my Savior. He died for me so that I could live again. It also strengthened my faith in Heavenly Father, that He really is here for each of us in our times of need. He’s watching out for us and He sends us help when we need it. I also came to know even more that the Spirit is powerful. All you really need to do missionary work is your simple and sincere testimony and let the Spirit do the rest. It truly is amazing the miracles the Lord brings to us. 🙂
This morning while getting ready, I was listening to the Especially For Youth 2006 CD. There are three songs on that album that I absolutely love. And though it might seem like it at first, if you think about the words, they apply to each and every one of us. Look up the songs “All Times, All Things, All Places”, “Prove Me” and “Live Like You Believe”. Woo boy! I love them! Those songs really motivate me and help me to want more than ever to have the strength and the faith that I need to be who Heavenly Father needs me to be.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about personal study. As a full-time missionary, we only get an hour of personal study each day. I know that’s quite a bit more than most of you get with going to school and work and taking care of your families, but I treasure it. Some days more than others, but I treasure that precious time with the Lord. I also start and end with a prayer and I pray throughout it. I hope each of you does that as you study the Lord’s words so that you can come to understand the principles and commandments in a way that helps you be able to apply them as you go through each day.
The last thing I wanted to talk about today was family. I had an hour to Skype with them on Christmas. I treasured that hour and still do. It was the most wonderful Christmas gift I could ever have and I’ll always hold that time dear. After being away from my family for almost seven months only being able to communicate with them once a week, I’ve come to realize just how precious they are to me. Growing up, we didn’t often have family home evening, but we made it a point to try our hardest to have family dinner. As we got older, it became harder and harder, but I’m grateful for each moment we’ve had together. This Christmas, we had the best family home evening ever. My family waited all day so that we could open our gifts together (I was shocked to see a new flat screen TV in the living room). We talked and enjoyed the time together and as it came to the end of the hour, I pulled out my scriptures and shared a verse with them, then bore my testimony of how important this is to me and how wonderful it is that we have a Savior to help us. They each agreed to try to study the scriptures more (which they better be doing). And just before hanging up, I said a prayer with them. It was the most inspiring prayer I’ve ever said and it was a wonderful feeling to know that I was praying with and for my family. I felt the Lord’s love for each of us and I have no doubt that He was there as I spoke the words I know He wanted me to say. Even though it wasn’t often that we did it, I have a testimony that having family home evening every week and taking the time to pray together each night brings the Spirit to our homes. If we take even five minutes to get together, the Lord will strengthen us and bring us closer together as a family unit. I challenge each of you to take the time in your families (roommates or whoever you live with) to hold family home evening once a week and have family prayer at least once each day (not including meals). I know it will be difficult with busy schedules and other time commitments, but if you make time for the Lord, He will surely pour down the blessings on you and your homes.
I love the Gospel and the many blessings and miracles that I get to see and be a part of each day. I love the Lord and His love for me. I know He is here and I know that He strengthens me every day of my life.
Have a wonderful week and don’t forget to LISTEN! 🙂