Saturday, January 4, 2014

Week 45: In the Aftermath: Live Like Christ

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Today in our district meeting we talked about how WE are the ones who make new years good, or new months productive, or new days interesting. This is very true. I hope 2014 brings you all good things, but I also hope we can all bring some pretty amazing things to 2014 too :)

Yesterday we had a 4-zone (equivalent of like 60 missionaries) post-Christmas party with the mission president and his wife and sons. First came the spiritual part where the president talked and we watched the video of all the baptisms in November (which you can now find on YouTube!) and remembered why we're here.

Then they gave us a test of how well we know Preach My Gospel. I came out in one of the top 10 scored and won a Crunch bar, which was meltingly delicious, eaten in the December heat beneath the waving shade of palm fronds.

I'm reading Preach My Gospel again right now, but doing it really slowly, going through all the study activities and reading every scripture mentioned. It's super edifying. I'm super grateful for how years ago President Simmons asked everyone in the Bloomington stake to read Preach My Gospel. I think I was 15 or 16 then and remember one afternoon lying on the living room floor thumbing through a chapter about how to find new investigators, bored, wondering why on earth had to be so obedient to invitations from stake presidents when this didn't even apply to me.

Now I know :)

But even then and especially now looking back, I realize how much I got out of it. I really encourage everyone to read this manual, full-time missionary or not. You learn a ton about the gospel and how to feel the Spirit and how to be more like Jesus Christ, which is the goal in this life.

I also want to to testify to being obedient to invitations that come from church leaders. Sure, I was 15 when they said that and didn't really even have plans of going on a mission, but I learned SO MANY THINGS that set the foundation for my high school and college years and increased my desire to go on a mission, God knows what´s best for us and uses his servants here on earth to give us advice or recommendations. We just have to be humble enough to accept them, trusting that they come from God and not from men, and trusting that we will reap the rewards sometime in the future.

On a related note, this week I'll finish the Book of Mormon for the seventh or ninth time, I can't remember, but it's the second time in Spanish. It's been really cool to go through it slowly, marking up the pages, meditating. But what has been the coolest of all, I think, is that there have been times that I've read a scripture and my mind has gone back to the very first time I read the same verse, sitting at our plastic tablecloth covered kitchen table, 7 or 8 years old, just trying to get through my 3 columns-a-day goal. It was rare, because I was little and didn't understand so many things, but there were scriptures that pierced my heart. It's cool to see that they still do that, the very same words with the very same power, in the heart of a very changed person. I know they come from God.

There were other scriptures that I didn't get until my mom explained them. I remember her explanations even still. Thanks, Mom, for being there.

But, back to the Christmas celebration. After the test, every zone had to go up on the stage and present 2 or 3 musical acts. My group danced a Mexican dance (complete with giant skirts, I will send pictures), sang a traditional and Guatemalan Christmas song with funny dancing because it makes absolutely no sense, and sang Carol of the Bells, but in Spanish. It was awesome, and the other groups' presentations equally so. It was really nice just to sit back and laugh for a while.

After that, they fed us a delicious lunch, complete with carrot cake cupcakes, and we split up to watch a movie (Facing the Giants) and play volleyball. I, of course, played volleyball. Outside, waiting our teams' turn, I reunited with my CCM companion and we reflected about our 9 months in the mission field. The time goes so fast...

Looking around in that moment, with everything lit up in the light of the setting sun, two days away from the start of the year in which I'll see my family again, the peace of Jesus Christ in my heart, I just felt so calm and content. Surrounded by missionaries, all of us lost somewhere between being normal high school kids and adults in this world, I felt a bit of solidity in this great time of transition. We're changing, but we're not lost, because we're right where we're supposed to be.

This year in the church-wide Christmas devotional I was really struck by the general Primary President's talk. She spoke about what we do after Christmas, when the surprises are now known and it's time to take down all the joyful decorations. Her answer was this: live like Christ.

And that's my resolution this year: Be a true disciple of the only perfect man, the living Son of God. Put into practice everything I learn and live the ideology I so cherish. Be perfect, even as He is.
Love you guys, so much.
P.S. I was thinking about her this week and just want Evie Lichtenwalter to know that God loves her and everything will be alright, but she should probably do a better job of looking for him.

Oh, and a shout out to Elder Crookston's mom, who should be discovering this blog this week. Your kid's a great district leader and I really appreciate how he shares with us the MnMs you send him :)

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