Wednesday, January 29, 2014

December 30: Look Not Behind Thee

Hello! Happy NEW Years, you cuties! I wish I could give you 9,008 big hugs. Sometime soon, people. No worries. It was so great to see you all on Skype! Gall. Warming my heart in this -11 degree weaTHA. P.s. Windchill last night? -30. Nope. Dead. Hahaha. Ugh.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the sweet Christmas packages and cards. You people are the actual best. Hi.

This week has been wonderful. Christmas in Minnesnowta was tender and wonderful and something I'll never forget. We spent all day with my favorite family in the ward. Prrrretty sure the R's get an honorable mention in each email, but. They earn it. They're the best friends we have here. And when we're in their little house - either on Tuesdays for dinner, or being together on a holiday, I feel like even though.. by all rights, we are third-wheeling their magical young-married-with-a-new-baby-life, we are part of a family. I feel safe there. So, all Christmas Day, we got to just talk and be with friends. And eat. We didn't do anything huge or spectacular and it reminded me so much of our cute family when we all get together. That just being together is the best part. (Also, they have a terrific album and book collection. They have agreed to send me a large list of musical love for when I go home. And, I wish I did art like either of them. Everything on the walls of their home is gorgeous and personal. Cool. Sign me up.) It was so comforting to be able to spend my Christmas in the mission field with my mission family.

ALSO, we spent the evening with one of Liberian RCs, who left all her children in Africa. We read Luke 2 and 3 Nephi and sang up a storm. Also had a full meal of fufu and hot pepper after a full lunch and dinner at the Ramseys. All in a days work, eh? 

I guess I loved this week so much because not only does it remind us of the journey the wise men and the shepherds made to see Christ, but it reminded me of the journey God wants us to take. It reminded me that no journey is too far, no distance too great for the Savior to come to US.

Let's talk about the principle of the fourth watch, right? In Matthew 14, we read the story of the disciples out at sea. The story tells us that the wind was contrary, and the storm was only growing. The anxious disciples see a figure walking out on the water, and it only adds to their anxiety, causing them trouble and fear. Christ encourages them, "Be of good cheer; it is I; Be not afraid." And Jesus invites Peter out onto the water with him. Peter, filled with joy and faith, takes his first few steps. But the winds don't cease. The water doesn't settle. And though Christ has reached out to him, Peter begins to fear - and lacking that faith, he sinks.

No sooner than he begins to sink, Christ reaches out a hand and saves him, chastening him for doubting, for losing faith. They make their way back to the ship together, and when they arrive together, the storm ceases. 

Friends, sometimes the past few transfers have felt like a stormy night. Missions are hard! Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's so hard in the most beautiful way. I love my Heavenly Father for making it hard. 

We have seen so many miracles, and likewise, we have seen so many heartbreaks. And staying in the same area, seeing, meeting, and falling so in love with so many people, who don't quite make it to baptism, or aren't quite ready right now, I have felt anxious. Some days the winds seem to great. But time and again, a single image breaks through our doubt and our fear. And that image is our friend and our brother Jesus Christ, with his hand outstretched. With a calm and peaceful smile amid the surrounding storm. 

And every time I fix my sights on him, I can move forward. I can walk on water, so to speak. And every time I give into the temptation of discouragement or fear because of the growing storm, I fall. And Jesus Christ, the greatest friend I have come to know and love in Minnesota, reaches out for me again - no doubt disappointed, but ready to help me with the peaceful arrival back on board. 

This week, things with the C family got even more complicated. We love that family so much, but we have had some difficulty in teaching the mom. We have as much fellowship as we can and individual fellowship plans for each member of the family. We have served them. We pray for them. And yet, things aren't quite lining up just yet. Their time is not just yet. And when I look behind me, at where things were, or look around me, at the growing flurry of falling complexities, I begin to sink. 

But the simple truth is that the Savior is there. His hand is outstretched. He sees us giving our best effort. He sees us doing all we can. And when we have given everything we can to weathering the storm, He will appear. We will see His influence and feel His mighty blessing. This week, we had an extremely discouraging day with the C family. Our evening appointment was with J, my friend from Ghana who has been taking the discussions since July. No matter what we teach her, read, pray about, fast about, she hasn't felt ready to be baptized. 

So this week, after some prayer, we decided to take it back to basics. The first principle, of the very first lesson, is God's love. And how effective are we as His servants if we haven't absolutely done everything conveying that love? Welp. J knows we are friends, but this week, as we did all we could to serve her, J knew we were her sisters.

And just like that, her heart changed. She agreed to baptism January 25th. 

It humbled me like nobody's business. And even though the difficulties of a mission are still  there, the storm still raging - investigators dropped, appointments cancelled, baptismal dates not met - it made me re-focus my sights on Jesus Christ. On His willing sacrifice and His outstretched hand, to help each and every one of us accomplish the seemingly impossible. And the storm inside me quieted, and I felt calm. I felt love for my Heavenly Father, and I also felt strongly that that feeling is something He wants all of us to feel.

 In life, and especially on a mission, the times we are sinking are the times we are thinking we walking alone. We are looking at the crashing waves around us, hearing the thunder above us. But it is my testimony and fervent belief that in those times, we are not seeing the Friend who walks out to us in the fourth watch. We are not recognizing His ability to make us more than we are - to calm the storms we experience personally and poignantly. 

We can be as still as the sea on a sunny day, or we can feel storm-tossed and lost. All depending on where our sights are fixed; where the Savior is in  our perspective. Is he far away and unattainable? Or is He walking beside us and helping us achieve the unthinkable? The choice is ours.

Also, this video, for New Years. Quality. 

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