Saturday, November 29, 2014

Be thankful, He is the gift

Dear wonderful family,

Happy (late) Thanksgiving!!!  I hope that you all had a wonderful day an a great chance to be thankful for all of the blessings that we have in our lives.  I thought a lot about what I was grateful for and the gifts that God has given me.  I made a little list in my planner of things that I am grateful for and it got really long pretty fast, and the things that I put on there were general things too!  Some of the things that I listed were: my family, the atonement of Jesus Christ, the temple, covenants with God, the Book of Mormon, the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, Christmas lights, yummy food, water, scarves, sweaters, my mission, books, pecan pie, the holy ghost, hugs, tears, the sky, a modern day prophet, the 12 apostles, the stars, the moon, music, learning, writing, pictures, missionaries, prayer, phones, online proselyting, the internet, answers to prayers, water, knitting, companions, the sun, trees, leaves, the mission presidency, the ability to repent and change, the church, God's love, and Jesus Christ.
We had a wonderful treat and got to go to a member's home yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner.  Temple Square was closed from  12 pm -6 pm, so during that time, all of the sisters on Temple Square got to go to a member's home for Thanksgiving dinner!  The family that had us over were so nice!  The food was really tasty too!  I have not had a meal like that for a while and it was really yummy!!  We had turkey, ham, rolls, sweet potatoes (which I like now... weird), jello salad, stuffing, salad, spinach dip and... I forgot what else, but it was all so good!  and we also had Pecan pie!! yum! I also tried a little bit of persimmon pie... I didn't really like it, but the carrot cake cookies were yummy!
We shared a spiritual thought about thankfulness and how Thanksgiving came to be. President George Washington and Abraham Lincoln actually both had a big hand in this national holiday beginning.  Thanksgiving was originally set apart to be a day to give thanks to God for all of our gifts.  Isn't that so cool!  We also shared Doctrine and Covenants 59:7 "Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things."  I think it is amazing that it is so important to be grateful that God gave us a commandment to thank Him.  I don't think it is because Heavenly Father wants to be thanked all the time, but he wants us to focus on the good and the positive.  When we are grateful, we are happy.  Sometimes, we may have a hard time being grateful for things or bad situations, but we can always find something to be thankful for.  When we look for the good, we will be surprised with how much good there is around us.  It reminds me of Nephi when his brothers had tied him to the mast and his ankles and wrists were swollen, and the ship was about to be swallowed up in the ocean.  "Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions." ( 1 Nephi 16:18)  When we are thankful, we trust God and know that He will help us always.
I want to invite you to take some time this coming week to think about all the things that you are grateful for.  Take about 20 minutes (at least) and list everything.  It could be when you are driving (turn the radio off) and just list the things.  You will be surprised and the spirit will really testify of God's love for you.  It will be a strengthening experience for you, I promise.
This past week, we went to the doctor for Sister Davis.  She had been having trouble hearing out of her right ear.  She would only faintly hear the alarm in the morning, so we figured that was a problem and made an appointment to go and see an ear doctor.  She was very nervous because if she lost her hearing, she would have lost her singing ability.  Well... as it turns out, she just had a lot of wax build up in her ear.  A TON of wax build up.  It was really weird to watch the doctor pull the wax out of her ear!  Sister Davis had no idea what was going on, but she said that I made a really amazed/disgusted face when he pulled out the wax and I have no doubt about that! haha!  It was really cool because we went to an audiologist and that is the other profession I could go into with my major.  But I think I would prefer to be an speech pathologist.  :)
On Tuesday, we had a special meeting with the missionary department about a new media campaign that the church is doing called "He is the Gift" have you seen/heard about that?  It is mainly on Temple Square, but it is also all over the internet.  The church purchased many jumbo-trons in Times Square and the youtube banner on December 7th (1st Presidency Christmas Devotional day) in many countries to show this video and this campaign.  It is an amazing video!  and it came out online (officially) today!!  They have added a screen in the North Visitor Center and covered the wall around it in a beautiful nativity picture.  They also re-decorated the south visitor center for the campaign as well.  In addition, they put new pictures up in the North Visitor Center covering the normal new testament pictures and they are beautiful!  The pictures tell the story of Jesus' birth.  It is beautiful and you will get to see them!
So..Go to this website!
It has a new video that the church has put out about Jesus Christ and Christmas!!  It is called "He is the Gift".  Jesus Christ was the first gift of Christmas.  He was a gift to each one of us so that we could have hope for the future, peace in the present, and happiness always if we choose.  Christmas is a wonderful and sacred time that we can celebrate the most important things in our lives and appreciate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Over 2000 years ago, the Messiah, the promised Savior of the World, was born in the most modest settings.  He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, yet he was born in a stable and visited by shepherds on his first night.  I know that Heavenly Father loved us all so much that he gave each one of us a chance to come back to him through the atonement of His only begotten son, Jesus Christ.  This is a gift for all.  All we have to do is embrace this gift in our lives and follow him.  What a marvelous blessing.
The lights on Temple Square go on... TONIGHT!!  ekk!! so exciting!!  There will be so many people everywhere!  I think that there are more lights than last year actually.
Love Always,
Sister Stephen

Friday, November 21, 2014

Build your own temples!

Dear Family,

This morning, we had a fantastic Relief Society!!  We had a special guest come... his name is Brother Clay Christensen.  Have you heard of him?  He is known as one of the most influential business thinkers in the world.  He has written 9 best-sellers and one of his books is known as one of the best business books ever written.  He is also a faithful member of the church and a fantastic member missionary.  He recently wrote "Power of the everyday missionary" and I have heard that it is a life changing book (I have not read it yet because I am currently a missionary. ;)  ).  Needless to say, we were super excited that we was coming and we were not disappointed!  His wife also spoke and she was wonderful as well.  The spirit was so strong in the meeting and I learned a lot and received personal revelation.  He spoke about 2 main topics, 1) the importance of religion in freedom, capitalism, and democracy, and 2) the power of the Book of Mormon and how to use it to answer any questions that we may have (specifically for our investigators).  The first topic was very very interesting.  I like hearing about those kinds of things, and I had forgotten that I liked learning about these things too. haha.  But he talked about how there are 2 ways to create a society that is prosperous and peaceful.  One is to have an honest dictator and force everyone to keep the rules. and the second is to have a democracy with a people that will voluntary keep the rules.  The second way is only possible when there is religion involved because the people would know that even if they were not caught by the law, that they would be caught by God.  Therefore, they will voluntary keep the rules and this produces peace and prosperity. Interesting, huh?!  He said that the work that we do as missionaries is so important, because we are producing worldwide peace and prosperity.  I had never thought as missionary work in that way before, and it is amazing to think about.  I do the work that I do because I love God and the people around them, but there are so many more benefits, like helping to create world peace.  The second thing that he talked about was how to get answers from the Book of Mormon.  He talked a lot about having real intent.  Real intent is different from being sincere.  It is actually being willing to act and do something with the answer that you receive.  You can be sincere and not be willing to act; we see that all the time and it is really sad.  But I have actually done a lot of thought about this and I agree completely.  To get an answer from Heavenly Father, we have to be willing to act on it.  If we are not willing to act on it, why would God answer us?  We will be judged according to what we know and what we did with that knowledge, and God loves us.  So why would he give us an answer that could dam us because we are not willing to act on the knowledge that we have?  He loves us that is why.  When we know how we will act on the answer that we receive, we are far more likely to get an answer.  

Lately I have been wondering if I actually should peruse a career in speech pathology or not. It has been troubling me because there are so many things that I like to do. I have been second guessing myself and what I would be good at and be able to do.  It has been an issue and I have been thinking about it a lot.  I have been wondering because I didn't know if I could make a difference there or if I was good enough to do that. Then Brother Christensen told us about his stroke and how he had to learn how to speak again. It was then that I was reminded and I knew that I needed to go into speech pathology. I have been pondering and praying about this for a little while and I am so happy that I got an answer in this way because it was exactly what I needed.  Heavenly Father really does hear and answer our prayers.  I was not expecting an answer in this way, but I am so grateful for it.

Christmas is coming!! And because of it so many things are changing and we are getting trained on a lot of new things.  Some things are the same as last Christmas, but some things are new.  Our missionary schedule is actually completely changed during Christmas time because we move back 1 hour.  So we will get up at 7:30 and then get home at 10pm and go to bed at like 11:30... I think this change is going to kill me, but it will be okay.  I was actually hoping that the normal missionary schedule would prepare me for my 8am class this winter semester... so much for that! haha!  They did not do the schedule change last year so we will see how it works this year.  There are also different assignments that we do because of the lights and all the people and we got training on that.  ALSO, do you know about the "Because of Him" video campaign?  Well they are doing one for Christmas!!  WE are getting training about that soon as well. :) Yay for Christmas!!
We are having our zone activity today.  We are watching a movie about building the SLC temple and making our own temples out of marshmallows and toothpicks!! We are also having a potluck!  It will be lots of fun!  I will tell you more about it next week! :)

I hope that you all know how much I love you!!  You are all fantastic and I love you so very much.

Love Always,
Sister Stephen

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Temple!

All the Sister's together

Don't get trunky!!!

This week was really great!

I had a "finish strong" meeting... It is pretty much what it sounds like.  Telling the sisters in their last transfer to not give up, don't get trunky, and to keep working hard.  It was really weird to be there in that meeting.  I don't feel like I am in my last transfer at all!!  I feel like I have at least 2 more after this, but I know that this is my last... It is a weird conflicting knowledge and feeling.
Sister Davis and I had a super funny experience this past week.  We were closing the Joseph Smith Movie and so we were talking with the people who came after the film was over.  There was a middle single ward that went to the movie and it was pretty awkward... Most of the women ran out of the lobby as soon as the movie was finished and all of the men remained.  I started talking to a group of them about missionary work and it was all good, when I suddenly realized that I was surrounded by people (most of them men) and didn't know where my companion was!  She appeared next to me at that point and I was so grateful!  Because then the normal conversation got awkward.  One guy was asking about our mission and we were talking about our mission and his mission and then one of the other guys started the whole "well in MY mission, blah blah" and it just became an awkward pride mission battle...  Then one of them was like "when did you serve your mission? oh because I served in blah-blah"... He did it to show that the other guy was older than him... super awkward!  Sister Davis and I then excused ourselves and ran home!! But really we were going to be late for curfew so we did kinda run.

It is snowing!! Right now!! Crazy right?!!  I still can't believe that it is winter because I feel like it was Halloween yesterday and summer the day before that.  How does time go so fast?  That is a question that I don't think I will ever have the answer to.  Everyone says, "Time flies when you are having fun"!  Missionary work is fun, but it is also hard work.  As a missionary, you give so much of yourself to people and all of yourself to God.  It is emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausting in a way that I never understood when I started out in the MTC or even in my first few transfers.  It is exhausting but also exhilarating.  There are times that you feel the spirit so strongly that you are drained for the rest of the day.  You pray so hard for these people that God will tell you their needs through the Holy Ghost so that you can help them.  You practice so hard to know how to teach well and with the spirit and in unity with your companion.  You are hurt when you get an in-bound call with a hurtful person on the other line who decides that it is okay to abuse everything that you hold dear and tell you that you are wasting your time.  There is nothing like extending a baptismal date and having it excepted and knowing that this person is making the choice to come closer to God.  The joy that you feel when you see them dressed in white and being baptized or even better, going to the temple is incomprehensible.  It is completely heartbreaking when your investigator drops you even though you know that they are not dropping you but choosing not to come closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ; but it still hurts because you love them.  There is nothing else that I would have preferred to do for the last 18 months than serving God by serving a mission.  I love my mission and what I have become because of it.  sorry I rambled a bit. :) God is good.
I love you all so very much!
Love Always,
Sister Stephen

Friday, November 7, 2014

The new companionship

A little songbird

Dear Family,

The trees are pretty naked... or in the process of becoming so.  However, there are lights being put all over to cover up their nakedness. ;)  There are more and more lights up everyday!!  Yesterday, they started putting out Poinsettias and I was like "WHAT?? It is only the 5th of November!! You can't do that yet!!!"  But really, it is beginning to really look like Christmas... much faster than normal I think.
For Halloween, we had dinner as a mission (yummy potato bar) and then we went to the temple!  The ENTIRE mission went to the 7pm session at the temple.  It was crazy and the poor temple workers didn't know where to put everyone because the session was so full.  To think that there were about 200 sister missionaries there plus the senior couples and part of the mission presidency and the normal people attending the session.  It was so beautiful to see all of the sisters in the Temple.  I had a question and actually got a different question that I didn't realize that I had answered in the temple.  It was a wonderful spiritual experience. 
This past Sunday was fast Sunday and for the first time on my mission, I bore my testimony during fast and testimony meeting.  There is usually so many sisters, that it is impossible to go and bear your testimony, but I really felt like I needed to go this Sunday.  I felt like it was not a crazy profound bearing of my testimony, but I did feel the spirit strongly, and many other sisters thanked me for sharing.  I got some of my silent prayers answered from other sisters testimonies.  And to think, that a long time ago before my mission, I disliked fast and testimony Sunday. haha!
On Sunday, I also announced for my last time.  That is when after Music and the Spoken word you hold up a sign saying what language you speak and take turns talking into the microphone at the giant crowd coming out of the Tabernacle and invite them to take a tour with you.  You also really dress up so that you look really cute.  It is a big deal to announce. :)  I will sent you pictures next week because I don't have them/ have not gotten them yet.  We had 3 people come on a tour with us and got a potential investigator as well.  It was really good.  :)
On Tuesday we had our Mission Leadership Council which was really good.  The assistants asked us to sing a musical number at the training.  Sister Davis is an amazing singer and would be on broadway if she did not come on a mission and change her career plans.  And I believe that she would be on broadway too. haha.  The assistants asked her to sing and then turned to me and said that I could sing too. :)  So we sang a song and it was really beautiful.  It was too the melody of "Nearer my God to thee" but with the words of hymn 101.  It went well.  (I saw President Poulsen later, and he told me that I sang like a songbird.  And told me that he didn't know that I had that talent.  :)  That is the first time that I have sang in a public setting on my mission because I feel like I am showing off or something like that.  I really enjoyed the meeting because I learned so much.  I learned more about how important it is to teach sisters and not make the choices for them.  That is something that I didn't realize, but that I really need to improve on.  I have been giving the sisters a fish, but not teaching them how to fish.  I need to work on improving this teaching skill.  I hope that I can master it (or at least improve a lot) in the little time I have left.
Sister Davis and I have been working hard.  We have a good teaching pool right now, and I am sifting through the people that we have so that we will only focus on the prepared.  Sister Davis is a great teacher and a wonderful missionary.  I love her a lot.  We are working a lot on our Zone Training Meeting that will be this Saturday.  Wish us luck! haha!

I still can't believe that this is my last transfer... It is a weird thought that only comes to me every once in a while.  I hope and pray that I have done and learned everything that the Lord wants and needs me to accomplish.  I hope that I am different and it is easily noticeable when I go home, because that will mean that I changed.  I really love the mission and everything that I have learned.  I don't think it was a fair trade; 18 months of my life in exchange for everything that I have learned and experienced.  Heavenly Father is too good to me.
Well I have to go I guess. I love you all so so much!!

Love Always,
Sister Stephen

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mission Update

Just to let all the readers know, the time has really flown by. Sister Stephen only has 6 more weeks as a missionary on Temple Square.