Hello my lovely family!!
So before anything else.... Guess who's Birthday it is!?!? MY DEAREST RALPHY'S!!!!! Or Abby's dearest Ralphy.... haha but HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY RALPHONZO!!!!! I can't believe you are all in Southern California to celebrate. Wish you were up North with MEEE!!! But that is SO fun. I feel so lucky that I was able to spend the last 2 years in Laguna with you for your Birthday. Haha I was just thinking back on those two trips actually. And last years with you two, Abigail & Ralph and then me & Cass (Sister Clegg) haha soo fun!! Don't have TOO much fun this year without me ya hear!? Wow. Crazy to also think that last year when we were at Disneyland, my mission call was MADE. Dad called me telling me that the mission department had assigned my call. And then I opened up my call only a couple weeks later!!!! It's coming up! It is almost a YEAR since I received my mission call. Can you even believe it!? It truly feels like it was yesterday. Wow. So crazy. And the fact that I am now on my mission.... I could not be happier. But again, Happy Happy Birthday RDG!!!! I love you so!! And your WIFE better spoil you rotten!! Okay, it's Miss Abigail we're talking about here. I know she will. So fun!! Give everyone a big hug and kiss for me!! Including the little darlings. Aliya has braces!? What!?! SO OLD. But please tell everyone hello and embrace Laguna for me!! Including the smell of the Steven's home... haha still my FAVORITE.
Speaking of homes, we are still unsure where we are moving yet. The mission office/President Weston haven't found us a place yet. Haha we saw President a couple of days ago too, he lwas in Gridley for an MCL meeting and it got brought up.. He said, "So we have a VERY nice tent and barbecue for you, will that be okay??" Hahaha love him. We said, "We'll take it!!" Haha but so we will see. And funny story, the Lincoln Hermanas (Hermana PIGGOTT and Hermana Lee) found out they had to leave the home they're in the same week we found out we had to here, so we're both moving out!! However, they are moving into an old Elders apartment. Anyways.. I'll make sure to keep you updated on that!!
Then okay, let's see... everything is going wonderful here!!!! Last week we taught the most lessons I have so far on my mission!!! It was great!! We met our high goal for member-present lessons as well which was a huge success. President wants us to have members at EVERY lesson we teach, even if it means calling 20 people to make it happen. So even though our Spanish branch is small, we're trying our best and it's really getting better!! Also, Brother Stutzengger, who was just released from the Stake Presidency and has been called to be a mission President in Mexico City (woot woot!!), spoke to our branch yesterday and spoke all on how members need to WANT to do missionary work, help out the full-time missionaries and really help hasten the work of The Lord... to make these happen. We are told all of the time that members need to be more involved, but if they don't have the desire to do so... they won't. So anyways, this man is AWESOME and full of soo much energy, enthusiasm, happiness and spirituality that he really got to our congregation and after the meeting was over, I had a few Hermana's come up to me and apologize for the times they haven't been able to come with us and they said they really do want to help out. So it was great! That man is going to be one incredible mission president! I am super excited for all of his upcoming missionaries. I got to talk to him for awhile after Sacrament Meeting too and we were just pumping each other up. Hahaha literally. He was getting SO excited talking to me, since I spent 6 weeks in Mexico City and then he is just the nicest and again, has such a fire and enthusiasm about him so it was way fun. Also, did you know the Mexico City Temple closed in January and will be under construction or remodel for 18 months!?! I feel sooo lucky that I was able to go and do 3 sessions at that temple when I was there!!! The missionaries now in the CCM don't get to go and not only that.. But they will never leave the campus grounds besides going to and from the airport!! So yeah, I feel so blessed I was able to have those experiences!!! And being there over Mexico Independence Day. AMAZING. Haha I hit that CCM at the PERFECT time. I loved my CCM experience more than I can express!!!!! Some of the best memories I have. But anyways... Next subject.
Along with our amazing, busy week of teaching... We still have so many golden people progressing right now!! Lorenza... right now she says what is holding her up from being baptized is the temples??? All she understood was that those who aren't baptized or members can't go in... Yamara brought it up in regards to her future wedding... so we are going to teach her more about them. Also, she doesn't fully understand the requirements and thinks we have to be so perfect and righteous to enter in... Which if that were the case, nobody would enter in besides The Lord. Of course there are high standards and you have to be WORTHY... But there's a difference between being worthy and "perfect". So anyways.. We have more to straighten out with her. I think right now she doesn't feel like she is "good enough" to be a member of this church. But her testimony keeps growing so much and I know she will be baptized before this transfer ends!! Unfortunately, our goal for thenot be happening... But she will be baptized soon!! I know it!! ....Then we have darling Dalia, who we found through tracting (woot woot) and she is progressing rapidly. She will be baptized soon. And she is so precious! Also, her and Hermana Ceja are old friends (from work) and so it's great!! At lessons they are always loving each other's company....The Castañeda family is still progressing a ton!! They really started off knowing barely ANYTHING. The kids were unfamiliar with the word Savior, even. But now they are growing, progressing and learning a ton!! It's amazing. I love this family soo much and cannot wait till we see them in all white!!!! Haha they are the best and sooo so cute. I wish you could meet them all. I'll send pictures soon though. I promise. Sorry I have been slacking. I actually haven't been able to really take many pictures because my camera is STILL broken. I'm sending it home this week Mama. Hopefully we can get it figured out. I need to capture more in Gridley!!!! ....Then we have Elvira, she was a referral (referral - AMAZING!!!) from Hermana Lopez and anyways... She is soo so darling as well and always reads soo much before each lesson! She'll read beyond the chapters we even assign her, it's amazing. I know she will be baptized soon. Also, something amazing about her is in her prayers with us she ALWAYS asks a lot about the Book of Mormon, our lessons, Joseph Smith, baptism... etc. Everything we want our investigators to pray about.. She does! With us even. Which increases the chance of her asking about the same things on her own. She is so good at really expressing her feelings, thoughts, desires and questions with our Heavenly Father. She truly has conversations with Him. I love it. And she has such a sincere desire & real intent to know so that's when the answers really come!! I am so excited for her. Dalia and Elvira are probably both in their 60's so it has been fun to teach these darling ladies. Also, their husbands will not be an issue!! We made sure of that right away. My heart is still breaking for Raquel who is SO ready to be baptized and wanting to be so badly but her stubborn husband is being a machista. Keep praying for her. As well as all of these wonderful people. And our other wonderful investigators who are Angel, Esgar (Yamara's brother), Gabriel, Margarito, Carolina, Petra, Rosa & Maggie, the Margallane family (they were giving their baby a bath in the sink last time we were there.... so adorable)... etc. More to come on these people later!!!!!! And we have a TON of potentials right now but I am not going to list them all haha.
Everything is truly going amazing here in Gridley though!!! I am still so so happy and loving every single minute I have as a full-time missionary. Dad, in your email today you mentioned that although I never mention it, I probably am still facing hard & tough times/days, frustrations, disappointment, etc... Of course. I could never and would never say a mission is EASY. Because it's not. It is A LOT of work and can be very hard/tiring physically, emotionally, mentally & spiritually. I don't think I have ever been harder on myself or felt more exhausted in almost every way. But you then told me, dad, to always stay happy and let the hard times roll off my back. I promise I am doing just that. Which changes everything. Although times can be hard, and we face challenges almost every single day..... I can SINCERELY say, I have never been happier and I am always as positive as I can possibly be. I will never ever let the hard times get to me. I will keep working my hardest and let the "hard times roll off my back." I promise. Something that I have really found myself doing and working on since day one on my mission, is always ALWAYS being positive, making the BEST out of every situation and keeping a SMILE on my face. It's crazy how much that changes things. And there is ALWAYS something positive to focus on and smile about. ALWAYS. It's amazing.
So first off, when I said I have never been harder on myself... I mean it in the way that being a full-time missionary I really set a high standard/bar and set very high goals/expectations for myself. It is really hard to sometimes feel like I am doing GOOD ENOUGH. That I AM good enough. Good enough to be a servant of our LORD & God... good enough to teach our Father in Heaven's precious children. It's sometimes hard to feel like I am having as much success as I should be, doing everything exactly how I should be, being as perfectly obedient as I should be, learning and speaking Spanish as good as I should be, helping my investigators, less-actives, members and companion as much as I should be. So as you can see... There are things that COULD get me down. And I can't say that I never feel those ways.. Because I am a HUMAN BEING. I am not perfect (far from it actually) ... I make mistakes, have many weaknesses, shortcomings, etc.........
This now reminds me of something we read in the Book of Mormon where a similar thing is exemplified with one of my favorite Prophets and heroes, Nephi. In 2 Nephi 4, Nephi laments and is sorrowful over his sins, iniquities, hardships, temptations, afflictions, etc. He was hard on himself JUST LIKE WE CAN BE HARD ON OURSELVES. However, although he felt discouraged because of his imperfections, he was immediately able to recognize all of the times The Lord has intervened in his life. He remembered that the Lord had been his support and led him through his afflictions and he clearly expresses the confidence he has in the Lord's love, "He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh" (verse 21), in the plan and trusts the Savior with everything. He trusts the Savior to help him, guide him, forgive him and take him to His Kingdom. He is able to remain POSITIVE and look unto Christ. He is able to recognize the good and REJOICE. He says, "Rejoice, O my heart" ...... "Do no slacken strength because of mine afflictions" ..... "Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto The Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the ROCK of my Salvation." He makes it clear that the person who MAKES us feel disappointment in ourselves, like we're not good enough, etc. is the enemy (Satan) and he follows to say, "O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of the flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of the flesh" .... "Yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the ROCK of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen."
Something that Jeff Brazell shared with me, (he's in the H25 Bishopric and emails me every week!!) was this that goes along with Nephi's experience....
Stephen Robinson, in Believing Christ, comments, “Nephi was saying, ‘No, I'm not perfect. Yes, my faults bother me, and yes, I wish I did a better job. Nevertheless, I have faith in Jesus Christ, I trust him. He says he can get me into his kingdom despite my imperfections, and I believe him. I know he loves me, and I trust him to continue saving me from all my enemies.’ Unfortunately, unlike Nephi, many of us just don't trust the Savior. We believe in him, but we don't trust him. We get so frightened and intimidated, so horrified, by our own imperfections that we don't see how he can possibly save us from them, and we lose faith. But if these great prophets had a healthy sense of their own sins and shortcomings, and yet could still confidently maintain that they had a place in the kingdom of God, should we not learn from their examples of trust and confidence—their examples of faith?”
Therefore, we must remember to ALWAYS keep faith just as these Prophets of old did. We must follow their example and remember to always trust The Lord and make him our ROCK. We have actually shared the famous and ever so loved scripture about this a lot this past week.
"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."
When we make the LORD, our SAVIOR and REDEEMER our ROCK, our FOUNDATION... No matter what comes our way, no matter what trials we face, temptations we feel, hardships we go through, no matter how hard Satan (the jerk) tries to make us feel unworthy, not good enough, like we're pathetic, weak, etc. WE WILL NOT FALL. The Lord WILL NOT FORSAKE US. He is ALWAYS there for us. He needs to be the ROCK of our lives. It is amazing to me to see how many people do not make Christ their ROCK and their FOUNDATION. And if Christ is not their foundation... Who is?? What is? Is their foundation made upon the things of the world?? If so, I have a testimony that they will not receive true happiness. The mighty winds will come into everyone's life. As will the hail and shafts in the whirlwind. So if we do not build our foundation on the Savior, I have a firm belief that we will not be able to find true happiness and only discover misery, etc. We must build our foundation on the SAVIOR... not the things of this world, things that are not SOLID.
He doesn't expect us to be perfect. We can become perfected THROUGH Him but it is something we have to work at every single day. So with that being said, I am trying my hardest to always be positive, always turn to The Lord, remember His goodness, His mercy and simply REJOICE because of it. It is SO EASY to be filled with pure happiness when we do these things. And SMILE ABOUT IT.
That is something else I want to briefly talk about. Smiling. Hahaha I know I am sounding cheesy but I have really thought a lot about smiling in general this last little while. Something I never really thought much about. But ever since I have been here, I have come to realize how much people notice those who SMILE. And along with that, how people are always watching us missionaries and member of the church in general. Are we aware of the expressions on our face?? And are we are of the impact that it makes on people??? The reason I bring this up... Is because I think it is SO important to always keep a smile on your face! No matter what you are feeling, facing, going through, etc. A smile can automatically help you think better, more positively and truly uplift your spirit. Also, again, your smile can really make an impact on others. I have actually had multiple people, comment or make remarks on my smiling. The Orme's, Jorge, the Lopez's, Hermana Ceja, Antonio & Lorenza, Agustin (he even gave me a shout out in his testimony last Sunday as the Hermana who always has a smile on her face..... haha) and other investigators, etc. always joke to me about it because they say I seem to always be happy. Because I am always smiling. Haha and the reason I have a smile on my face a lot is truly because I AM so HAPPY. And the reason I am so happy is because I am trying my very best every single day to build my foundation on the Savior, serve our Father's children and do all I can to live with my Father in Heaven again someday. But the reason I bring this up is because I never realized how much people actually notice. And it made me take a step back and realize how important it is FOR me to always have a smile on my face. So now now I notice others who always smile and whenever I realize I am NOT smiling, I try to change it. I am a representative of my SAVIOR. Shouldn't I always have a smile on my face?? Because I can promise you...... I find myself with other expressions on my face much more than I would like as well. And in all honesty, I know I could smile A LOT more. But when people look at us.. What do they see?? Someone smiling because they have the Savior and gospel in their life?? Someone stressed, angry, troubled?? Hahaha that reminds me of the primary song.....
"When you chance to meet a frown, do not let it stay, quickly turn it upside down and smile that frown away. No one likes a frowns face, change it for a smile, make the world a better place by smiling all the while."
So remember to smile. It's simple.
Well, I have to go!!! I started this earlier and then stopped and JUST GOT HOME and have dinner with all the missionaries and then have a branch FHE at the Orme's!!!! ADIOS MY LOVES!!!!!!! Sorry for the most confusing/all over the place email. I LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!!!!