My loveliest & most beautiful family in the world!!
How are each of you!? Ohh I have been thinking about each & every one of you a lot this morning. You'll soon understand why ... and I have almost been brought to tears a couple of times while doing so. I love each & every one of you so so much and even just thinking about you warms my heart right up! But we have had a very wonderful & eventful week here in Northern California so here is an update!!
- First thing. Did any of you by chance hear about the "Western Soaker" that was supposed to hit us?? Well a gigantic rainstorm was supposed to happen and oh my goodness were we prepared. President Marston emailed us making sure we all were prepared with flashlights, food, etc. because we had many warnings of flash floods & 60 mph winds. We even had our Zone Meeting & weekly planning times change for safety & traveling reasons. It was crazy!! It didn't end up being a big as it was supposed to be though, which was exactly what I expected .... However, all throughout the night the rain was indeed dumping down and the wind was pretty intense. We ended up getting about 18 inches of water and it still ended up being the biggest rainstorm these parts have seen in the last 10 years. So it was still big & exciting. I wanted it to be even crazier but I was happy with what happened. Also, it has been continually raining since then so I am still on cloud 9! The weather has made some things a little more difficult - such as tracting & OYMing for the "He is the gift" initiative but we still make things possible. So as for my next exciting news ....
- We received 4 new investigators this week through tracting & doing the "He is the gift" initiative!! I am beyond thrilled!! I haven't tracted very much here in this area but I knew it was what we needed to do to get the word out more and contact more people, so we have done it more lately and have been seeing great success because of it!! First off. Something I have been pondering over a lot this past little while has been "personal revelation" and knowing I am following the "promptings of the Spirit." I think about these two principles a lot and sometimes stress over knowing if I am receiving & following them as much as I should be. For they both are crucial & key in missionary work. How can we do the Lord's work without receiving direct guidance, revelation and promptings from Him?? In regards to where we should go, who we should teach & what we should teach them? Well, we can't. It's simply not possible. So anyways, I have been praying very very intently to Heavenly Father lately to help know I am doing all I am supposed to & the way I am supposed to and from some of the experiences I have had this week, my prayers have been greatly answered and I have been assured that I am doing the very best I can.
- First off, in MLC last week we talked a lot about the importance in involving the Lord in every aspect of the work. We talked about how we must plan efficiently, effectively and with the Spirit and make sure to fill Christ in on what our plans are. Therefore, He will be aware of what we are doing & where we will be and can can place those who are prepared for us in our path. It actually reminds me of something Michael said to me not too long ago while he was still on His mission ... "There are golden people everywhere. I love the concept of working together with the Lord. Making a goal with Him & your companion & letting Him know you will do anything to accomplish it. When He sees that you are desperate to find the goldens and will do anything, He trusts in you more and knows that if He puts them in your path you will open your mouth." Well that's exactly what I have been doing and we have been seeing big miracles because of it!!
- 1st Miracle. The other night when we were planning, we planned to visit & teach a member & his non-member wife but for back up plans I had a strong feeling to have us go tracting. There are a good amount of people we can visit here if lessons fall through but I had a strong impression we'd need to tract so I stuck with it and made it our plan. I also made sure to include that information in my prayers. Well, the next day came and Eleanor & Hermano Ramirez were not home. So, of course, I got a little excited at the thought that we would be tracting (even though my companion didn't feel the same - she still isn't the biggest fan of it) haha and off we were!! Tocando las puertas!! Also, I said a very very intent prayer before we started and I pretty much pleaded with Heavenly Father to lead us to someone who was prepared. So, then after knocking on a few doors & experiencing some unpleasant occurances (no big deal - one man answered his door and told us to leave Orland immediately because everyone is bad here and there are cannibals! He said people ate his children & now he is being held hostage .... it was sad but yes, there are some unexpected surprises that occur while tracting complete strangers homes haha) I saw these two little Hispanic kids run into an apartment and I knew we had to knock their door. So, we did. This little boy ran to the door due to his mother's request, asked us who we were, we told him "las misioneras" and as soon as he yelled that to his mom, she was at the door welcoming us in. Then as soon as we walked inside, she immediately turned off the tv and set up two chairs for us to sit on. And then her and her little boy, Joseph who's 9 & her granddaughter who was around 6 ... Sat down & were completely ready for us to start teaching them! So we shared them the "He is the gift" video, went into more depth on the beautiful message & invitation it brings and then gave them both a Book of Mormon. Joseph was thrilled he got his own copy!! Also, when I asked Joseph how he felt he could better accept or embrace Jesus Christ, he immediately said through prayer and then when I asked him why prayer was important he said, "So that we can show God that we believe in His Son and we can have His spirit with us more to help us make good decisions." Wow! What a profound answer from a 9 year old. I was blown away. But anyways, background on them ... Salome, the mom, and Joseph are the one ones who live there - it's just the two of them, so cute - and Salome doesn't have much religious background or knowledge but Joseph does. He attends a Christian church right now and he is golden!! I'm not even kidding this little boy is incredible. So anyways, we had an awesome lesson with them and it was a complete miracle we found them. Also, we had another lesson with them last night!! And this was another testimony builder to me that I am truly trying my best to follow the promptings of the spirit. We had a set lesson with them at 4 but when we got there, they weren't home. I was pretty bummed at first but I knew we had to try them again later that night. So after dinner, we had a couple of options as to where we could go but I had the strong impression to try to see Salome & Joseph again and so we did just that. Well ... to my pleasant surprise, they were home and Salome again, had us come in immediately and set things up for another lesson. She also apologized for not being home at 4 and said how she felt really bad when she saw our note and knew we had missed them. They got home late from a nativity practice Joseph was in at one of the church's. Well anyways, they were both eager to hear our message - especially little Joseph, he was beaming from ear to ear and at the edge of his little seat - and we shared with them the most incredible & beautiful message of the Restoration of the church of Jesus Christ. Wow, what a powerful & spiritual lesson it was. I am being completely serious when I say it was the best I have ever taught that lesson in Spanish. And I have taught it hundreds of times. I have never been able to talk more fluently and I never once thought about what to say or how to say it but just spoke completely from my heart and by the spirit. It was incredible!! Also, Hermana Cluff did amazing, her Spanish is fantastic, and it was the first time she has recited the First Vision in a lesson and she nailed it!! She said it perfectly (we quote it every morning in comp. study) and with such power, sincerity & conviction. The Holy Ghost was so strong during that lesson and I know they felt it as well. They both loved the story of Joseph Smith too and said they will continue to study & pray about all that we've taught them. Soo we have another lesson with themand I cannot wait!!!! I am so so excited!!! Salome & Joseph are the cutest!! Tracting does have success I tell you!
- Also, yesterday after Salome & Joseph weren't at first home, I felt again a strong impression for us to go tracting. So, we did. It started to rain a little bit on us too but it was so so worth it because we found two new investigators!! Maricella & Natalia. Natalia invited us in and we had a lesson with her inside - which was awesome - and then it turns out I have met Maricella before at the Campos's house! She came to their house the night we had a little fiesta and made tamales!! So that was a miracle in itself. She is good friends with Adriana & Oliva!!!! Incredible!! They are both the sweetest ladies and I am so excited to teach them more!
- Dinner fasts! Okay so this past week we had what we call "dinner fasts" where we don't eat with members unless a less-active, investigator, recent convert, etc. is present as well. Well,dinner was awesome because we tried to get Lorena's family to come eat with us at the Whitaker's but they had friends from Mexico in town so they couldn't and so we ended up getting Mercedes & Ana to come which was a miracle because Mercedes has been super busy lately so we haven't seen her as much as we'd like to. Then the next night we went out with Elder & Sister Warmoth, Mercedes, Ana & Tristin ... we had our Branch Fiesta de Navidad - where tons of less-actives, recent converts and then Adriana, Waleska, Ismael & Israel (our investigators) came and then yesterday something totally unplanned & unexpected happened. Before church I had the thought come into my head to contact Sister Orozco. They aren't in the branch but her husband is Hispanic, a high councilmen for our stake and anyways... I have eaten dinner with them before and lately whenever I see Sister Orozco she has tried to schedule a dinner with us but we haven't been able to make it work. So I randomly decided to text her and tell her our schedule was super open for the week. Well, we ended up having dinner with them last night and to our surprise, Zeena their 18 year old daughter, brought her non-member friend!! It was super casual and not really set up but her friend is not a member and even went to church with her yesterday!! So during dinner she asked us all kinds of questions, was so so sweet and then we shared the "He is the gift" video & message at the end and it was perfect! It ended up being a super spiritual message & Hermana Cluff topped it off by sharing her sweet, sincere and heart felt testimony of the Savior. We were all overwhelmed with the spirit and Zikiri, Zeena's friend, was wide-eyed and so into the whole thing and at the end even, when we passed around cards, said she was so excited to show her mom the video. She's Hispanic too by the way which is why we are so excited and she is 18. So awesome! So that was a huge miracle!!! Yesterday was full of so many miracles!!!!!
- Marco! So we had an incredible lesson with Marco this past week! We read 2 Nephi 31 with him and taught him the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was by far the best lesson we have had with him thus far and he wasn't trying to drill us with questions like normal!! The only thing he tried to question us lots on was the Sacrament but as soon as he saw that we were explaining it very clearly from the scriptures, he chuckled and apologized and said he was just trying to give us a hard time because he feels like people normally just believe & eat up everything we say. Which is not true ... but so anyways, that was it and for the rest of the lesson he was very attentive, respectful and seemed to fully accept & understand all that we were teaching. We read tons straight from the scriptures too so I know that helped a whole lot. Also, the spirit can testify very strongly of complete truth, which is exactly what the scriptures are ... so I know his heart was touched that way. Then Amy, his 17 year old sister, gave a very emotional & heart felt testimony of the gift of the Holy Ghost so again, I know his heart was touched. At the end of the lesson we then gave him a light baptismal invitation, which he readily accepted - agreeing that baptism is the next step he must take - but as soon as I talked to him about making goals & tried to set a baptismal date with him, he wasn't as accepting. He just feels he needs more time and needs to come to church again before any date is set, which we feel content with, so that's where we left it. Unfortunately he didn't come to church yesterday though which was a bummer but we're definitely seeing tons of progress which makes me super happy!!!
- Last lesson I want to tell you about.we had an amazing amazing lesson with Martina, a recent-convert. She wanted help with the talk she was giving about "agency" and anyways, we discussed soo much and then yesterday, in her talk she explained a ton of things just as I had explained them to her and even used some of the scriptures I shared with her, which made me so happy. She spoke with such passion & love and I was almost blown away by how incredible her talk was. And it was the first one she has ever given!! Ah, so cute. Also, the sweetest thing. Her husband, whom I adore, Jorge, spoke as well and the one time in his talk when he started getting super emotional & all choked up, was at the end when he started talking about us Sister missionaries!!! He expressed his great appreciation for us coming over and teaching them and he even explained how often he will come home from work completely exhausted and just down but when we're there when he gets home, he said our lessons always uplift him so much and leave him feeling rejuvenated & renewed and ready to go again. My heart was overflowing as he was saying this and I felt such a great amount of love for him and their family. I love them so so much and they continue to uplift & change me so much as well. I cannot even begin to express the amount of gratitude I have for the people I have met and have the privilege of teaching on my mission. I am so so blessed.
- Last but not least ... We had our a Branch Christmas fiestaand it was amazing! We had lots of great food, over 100 people came, again - including tons of less-actives, recent converts and investigators and ALSO, my sweetest angels Any & Maria came up from Gridley as well!! After Hermana a Richards & I left Gridley, Elder Hernandez & Elder Tepox continued teaching them and Elder Hernandez got really close to them and because he is going home , he invited them to come!! So they did and it made me the happiest!! I seriously love them so much and have missed them so much as well. And those death hugs from little Maria, I miss them so much! So that was so much fun for me. Any was pretty sad I didn't visit them when I was just in Gridley though ... which I feel really bad about. She said, "I heard that our missionary was in town and didn't come see us!" Tugged at my heart a little bit but I promised her I will visit them next time I am there for an exchange. So all is well. And also, we had a Hispanic Santa or "Papa Noel" this year!! It was Hermano Orozco and it was awesome. Haha I love Hispanic Santas. Oh and all of us missionaries with the youth sang Silent Night before the Nativity started so that was pretty special as well. I love my Spanish Branch's!!!!!!
Okay, well I am sorry I just filled you in on so much .... I always have SOOO much to say and don't feel as though I am even able to share half of it!! But I hope you are able to see a glimpse of all of the miracles & wonderful things that are happening around these parts. There is so much!! I love being a missionary!!!!!!!! And especially around Christmas time, there is nothing better!!! Christmas has never felt more magical.
And now for the next part of the email ........ So during personal study this morning I was studying Christ-like attributes and realized how many attributes you, my dearest family, obtain. I then started writing some of them down and ended up writing little things that I love about each of you. I'm sorry I didn't have a whole lot of time to put down all that I feel but I still want to share with you all a tiny bit of how highly I think of each of you & love you.
Why I love my family so.
Mom - I love your sweet & tender spirit. You always seem to be in tune with the Spirit and have a heart made of pure gold. These qualities also make you radiate and I want you to know you are one of the most beautiful people I know. You are absolutely flawless & someone who is just as beautiful in the inside as you are on the outside. You truly obtain the Christ-like quality of humility too and are one of the most selfless people I know of. I wish I could even begin to thank you for all that you've done for me in my life and for how you have diligently, willingly & lovingly served each of us - dad & your children - our whole entire lives. An example of your humble & charitable heart also shows in how you truly sympathize with others. You don't just listen to how they're feeling but you feel it as well. An example of this for me is when I came home after saying goodbye to Michael (cheesy example I know) and while I hugged you and cried, you cried with me as well. That meant so much to me and it didn't matter what the situation was but the fact that you truly felt what I was feeling ... I'll never forget it. I am spoiled rotten to have you as my mom and my appreciation for you is beyond what you'll ever know. You also are one of the most loved people I know. Every single person who meets you instantly loves you & wants to be your very best friend. You have a gift at making people feel comfortable, loved & special. I love you my Mama B.
Dad - I love your quiet dignity & strong spirit. I can honestly say there is no man I respect or love more than you. You obtain all of the attributes I want in my future husband and I admire you more than you know. You are also one of the most charitable, humble & selfless people I know of. You are always thinking of others & how you can better serve them. I will never forget the night of Mom's surprise Birthday party when we took a quick trip to McDonald's and you paid for the car behind us. That experience has always stuck with me and is just one example of your charitable heart. I also know how you are at Christmas time ... you're the best Christmas elf - example of the Savior - I know of. You also don't serve others to receive praise or gain but simply because it's the kind of person you are. I am so thankful for your example in my life and for the influence you have been to me. There are countless times when I share with people something you've taught me or shown me through your example. Thank you so much for also providing the spirit of the Priesthood into our home and teaching our family how to be better disciples of our Savior, Jesus Christ. For that, I will be eternally grateful. I love you my darling dad.
Brad - If only you knew how much I brag about you. I could not be more impressed with the person you are and the person you're continually becoming. You always seem to have your life balanced & in order and you are hands down one of the most well-rounded, intelligent & logical people I know of. However, you are also one of the most loving, generous & witty people I know of as well. You make me feel so so loved & important and are someone who has always believed in me. You always make me feel like I can take on the world & help me see that I can truly be as successful as I want to be. I am so thankful for your quiet confidence as well and for the high standard of excellence you've provided for me. I hope to continue to make you proud and I appreciate how much focus you put on helping me achieve my life goals. I also am so thankful for how much you love being with our family and how you always take time to be with us & plan fun things for us to do together. You embrace our family traditions and help us all be more united. You also always will drop what you're doing to help one of us. I'll never forget the night before my Farewell talk when I lost my talk - was a wreck - and you were immediately at the house helping me feel better & re-organize my thoughts. Although I am only your little sister, I also always feel like I am a priority to you and that means more than anything. I love you my Brodle McMuffin.
Britt - I feel so blessed to have you as my sister-in-law. You know this more than anyone else but ever since you and Brad started dating I have loved & admired you. I think I wanted you two to get married more than anyone. Haha and actually, I even admired you from a far long before the both of you dated. I'll never forget when I was super young & saw your Senior picture in the year book (I knew you as Shally's older sister) and I immediately went into the bathroom afterwards & tried to copy your cool hairstyle. Now you can get a better idea of why I was so thrilled when you and Brad started dating. You have been an example to me from day one! But truly, there are so many qualities I admire about you. You are someone who has a very caring, loving & sensitive spirit and you truly do care so deeply for people. I have always been impressed by how easily you love people and how you immediately become concerned for their needs & well-being. You also are always so bubbly, fun & energetic which makes being around you such a delight. Thank you for being such a wonderful addition to the Barth family and being such an amazing wife to my brother. It always makes me so happy hearing how much you love, admire & respect him and I think you two compliment one another perfectly. I love you britt doggg.
Scotty - My darling Scooter. I have always had a very soft spot in my heart for you. You are someone who has a heart of gold, like mom, and are also one of the most loving, friendly & sweet people I know of. You have a great gift at making everyone feel comfortable, loved & cared about as well and I don't know if I know of anyone who has more friends than you. You're someone who everyone can instantly get along with, it doesn't matter who the person is, and everyone loves you. I often think about the type of missionary you were as well and I'll never forget seeing the Brazilians cry & cry as you said your goodbyes to them. I have tried my best to help those I've taught & interacted with on my mission feel as loved as you made those incredible people feel. Ohh I just always feel such a warm feeling in my heart when I'm with you and you make me feel very very special as well. I always feel flattered when people tell me we look alike or seem alike because you are someone I admire in many ways. You just have a very warm & sincere nature and I can't fully express how happy you make me. I love how you also always support me in whatever I am doing and make me feel confident & good about the decisions I make. You're someone who I know will make me feel good no matter what and I cherish our friendship so much. I love you Scooter.
Abigail - My other half. Like we always say, "best friends doesn't even begin to cut it."I don't even know how to begin to tell you how much I love & admire you. I also brag about you constantly, an obsessive amount really ... and don't think it would be possible for me to admire or look up to you more. You are my biggest role model and I cannot think of anyone more stunning, charitable, thoughtful, classy, giving, talented, loving and overall amazing. How did I get so lucky to have the most perfect sister in the world? It is so clear to me that Heavenly Father knew we had to be sisters and I thank Him every single day for that. Oh, I am so blessed to have you in my life and I cannot even fathom what my life would be like without you in it. You have helped me, in countless ways, become the person I am today. You've shaped me into being a better daughter of God and an overall better person. I truly owe so much to you because I have consistently tried to mimic you my entire life and I am so blessed to again, have such an amazing example to follow. You are one of the most Christ-like people I know and everything about you is perfect, inside & out. Truly, I don't know if there is anyone who goes more out of their way for people and makes people feel like gold. Ohh I love you so much. Also, clear example of how you truly are my other half. Yours & Ralph's weddings was one of the happiest days of MY life. I truly don't think I have ever witnessed something more sacred or beautiful than when you two, my best friends, got sealed in the temple - the House of the Lord - and I felt pure joy in my heart for the entire rest of the day as well. Reasoning for why I cried myself when you & dad danced to "edel veiss" and when you & Ralph had your first dance to "moon river." I was so happy for the both of you that I cried!!!!! Now that's saying something. I love you so much my Georg (gayyyorg) VanTrapp. Thank you for being my #1 fan.
Ralph - Ralphonzo. The cutest, sweetest & best brother-in-law I could ever ask for. I look up to you so much. I also am being completely sincere when I say I have rooted for you from day one, before you & Abby ever even dated, and deep down I knew you'd be the one who would steal my sister's heart!! I hope you understand how much I must love you too to approve of you being my Abigail's husband. She means more to me than anything so I would only allow the best of the best to marry, love & take care of her. Well, you passed the test with flying colors and I couldn't think of a better man for her or a better addition to our family. You have felt like a brother to me long before you two even got married too and I am so happy I not only see you as family but as one of my best friends. You have always been overly sweet to me and made me feel so loved. You always would include me in yours & Abby's activities and were totally fine with us being three muskateers. I'll never forget all the times you two would invite me to go to movies, etc. with just the both of you. Oh, you are the best. I love you Ralphy.
I truly mean it when I say I love you all with all of my heart. Please never forget it and know that I am praying for & thinking of each & every one of you, specifically & personally ... every single day. I LOVE MY FAMILY. I love our Savior, Jesus Christ and I love celebrating His life & Gift.
Have a wonderful week my lovelies!! May your days be merry & bright.