Oh heeeey. Just your frozen sister from the same heavenly mister, taking some time to drop a line. Whenever I say drop a line here, I immediately think of ice-fishing. Which is what I compared to eating fondue as a group the other night. You bet. I fon-DID. Fondue jokes. Fon-DON'T test this message.
Welp. Monday is supposed to be 28 degrees. Oh, that's fine. NOPE. It's not fine. Let me tag on the tail end of the sentence. 28 degrees BELOW ZERO. Hhaahahhahahaha OH MY GOSH NO. How do we even...? What? They say if you're outside for more than ten minutes, you will freeze your flesh. FREEZE YOUR FLESH. But really, it'll be okay. Except that church is cancelled and we're not supposed to go outside for the next two days. Hoooooh, man. I will probably go crazy. And/or write out lessons and testimonies and train some sort of ice-lovin' critter to deliver them to our cute investies. Nah. No worries. I picture this a lot like the scene in Star Wars where they just like cut open the weird animals and get inside them so they can survive the war. I don't know what the Minnesota equivalent would be, but... by all means. Let's do that.
Despite the frigid weather (coldest winter in 20 years), this week has been warm with miracles. And in a miracle maybe most enabling and tender of all, all jokes aside, I have really and truly not felt very cold. I don't know how to explain it. I just don't feel it. I don't pretend to know how it all works, but I know Heavenly Father has the power to do all things. And even though I am hardly a pioneer or of early-saint-calibur, feeling completely warm (even running out to the car in -2 in a t-shirt) at all times has been an incredible miracle this week. Heavenly Father loves us, knows us, and is ready to bless us so individually so that we feel his love.
I think my favorite miracle this week was when we were pretty hopelessly lost on New Year's Eve, and my GPS gave up the ghost. Picture that, if you will. Especially those of you who have ever suffered at my hand in the receiving of directions (I still check my finger-Ls for which is right and which is left) or learned the heavenly virtue of patience as I attempt to decipher a road map. We were in a random neighborhood in North Minneapolis, in a part of the area I haven't worked as much. The weather was about -4, and gusts of glittery, blowing snow were just a-blowin', obscuring the heck out of our vision. We pulled up a random street to stop and examine the paper map (a totally foreign concept) and figure out the way to our scheduled stop-by. As we looked, my attention was drawn across the street and up two houses, to a little house with a light shining through the curtains.
The Spirit impressed upon me that we had to knock. I started to unbuckle my seatbelt and wedge on my gloves even as I suggested it. I knew we would! We had to. We've been working on Sister T's door approaches, so she leads out in all finding situations now. No sooner had she sweetly said her name and asked the woman at the door her's than we were invited inside! P and J, the couple living inside, had lived in Ogden for 20 years, with many friends who are members of the church. In Utah, they were strongly involved in a church, but since coming to Minnesota, they haven't found a church they like or feel comfortable with. As we shared the message of the restoration, both got a little emotional. They've been worried for their children and unsure of direction they should take. In FACT, it was their anniversary and they had just been talking about that concern.
We testified, "God sent us to your door tonight. We got hopelessly lost, only to look up and know He sent us here. Just to you. Do you believe that?" The mom, a little sheepish and teary, nodded. "Stranger things have happened." By the time we left, she was just hugging us like we were family. We scheduled a return appointment congruent with their work schedules, and as we drove back to our original route, we called the member who had come to our mind as we visited with them. She was free to joint-teach the evening of the return appointment. That's a miracle!! We've been trying to be much more proactive with the phone to improve member presents and people are progressing accordingly. Investigator and member hearts are softening to the message. Yeah, LISSSten. If you have missionaries in their area, please go joint-teaching with them. It's not horrifying like you think. Literally, you will change their missionary work and their investigators, simply by coming and being a normal person who believes what we do. We're NOT REAL to them. We wear name tags and skirts and suits on bikes. Come on people. Help us out. Come and share your testimony. Pretty please and thank you.
But how wonderful is Heavenly Father? That He has the power to get us lost in exactly the neighborhood on exactly the street in front of exactly the house of people searching, and familiar, with the message? That is not a coincidence. That is compassion from a loving Father.
EC continues to be softened by the service of members. We stopped by for our appointment this week and were countered by a crying baby and out-of-town family visiting, but E - the member of the family who has been most hesitant, came out in the hall and talked to us about the Book of Mormon and about her desire to come to church. It was an amazing miracle! Seeing this family progress and being able to love them and learn patience through their ups and downs has been a wonderful blessing of my mission. I know they will be baptized. I know they will have these blessings. And I am determined to creatively do all the Lord asks, with everything we have, to help that happen. I know the Lord will guide us and bless us. JA is still progressing well towards baptism January 25th, and KW and her daughter L, are on track for February 1st, due to her finally changing her work schedule and having the Sunday day shift off!!! HURRAH FOR ISREAL. But, really.
I've seen big changes in the area and in investigators we've worked with for a long time, and as selfish as it seems, the difference is in me. I had to repent of the frustrations and disappointments I've held onto and held onto for the past five or so transfers here. And I think that's true for all of us in our different situations - relationships, jobs, school, everything. We get bitter. We do. And even if we don't verbalize it or even consciously acknowledge the hardening, it goes against human nature to keep trying and trying when we're turned down or when things don't work out. Which is exactly why we have a Savior. It is exactly the reason God sent His son Jesus Christ to enable us to overcome our natural tendencies. The divine and the beautiful in this life do not come by yielding to momentary, or monthly, or yearly setbacks. The best blessings come by redeeming persistence and perspective! Easiness cheapens the gift. All things worth having require work, repentance, and diligence in obeying the guidance of the Lord. We may not see results right away. We may not see them at all in this life. But we persist in doing the things the Lord asks of us. And that is not hopeless or deranged and euphemistic. It is gospel truth. We need to fight through. We need to choose. Because we can. Because that is why we are here.
I just love these people so much! I want this so badly for them and it crushes me when it doesn't work out, whether we taught them once or sixteen times. I needed a fresh view of the area and these individuals. And that freshness comes through repenting! (Bible Dictionary definition of repentance has been a big fascination for me this week. Plllllease give it a gander.)
And as we have changed our attitude, the area has changed. The investigators are changing. The ward is changing. It really is as simple as increasing our faith. And everyone keeps saying it, but it's only because it's true. We can't make someone keep an appointment or keep their commitments for them, but we can control our attitude and our trust in God during the setbacks. If something falls through, we have a conscious choice through the gift of agency to either say, what are we doing wrong, what's wrong with these people, and on and on. But it's selfishness. It's pride. It's doubt, and it's a lack of faith. It's so much happier to choose the Lord's way. To realize, okay, if not that appointment, if not that investigator, if not today, then tomorrow. Then the next door. Then the next appointment. Things work out. He has it in hand. And He is so much more powerful than me or any of us attempting to do this work.
It's the same for you, friends. Okay, if not that job, the next one. If not this success, a different success. If not my expectation, something better. We choose our happiness by choosing our faith.
It's interesting, because I've always been a grumpy guy in the winter times. And here, in the coldest place I can imagine, I haven't. I've felt happy; increasingly so. I love this area. I love this work. And even though it's the coldest winter in 20 years, I love this state and this winter. Because as the days grow colder, my heart feels warmer. I feel it changing into the heart Heavenly Father needs it to be. I know that change is possible because of my Savior Jesus Christ. And it makes me happy. And I want all my brothers and sisters to feel the same. :)
I love you all! Thank you for your cutie-pants support, your Christmas cheer, and your charity. Seeeeee you this fall!
... WHAT. :/