Monday, April 21, 2014

Week 36: Cleansed By Storm

Mississippi takes April showers very seriously.  Every other day it seems, we wake up to thunderstorms.  I mean, it's kind of exciting to be lulled to sleep by the clatter of hail-like rainfall or the long rumbles of thunder (occasionally interrupted by bluish lightning flashes through the blinds - that's just God taking pictures of the scenery) but there's something about waking up to these that just makes one want to cocoon under the covers, sleep, and not do any kind of work until the sun comes out.  Friday was one such day.  Prior, however, Tuesday proved to be one of the hardest days I've yet endured.  It began just fine, with a lesson with Diddy (who's baptismal date will need to be put off, since EVERY WEEK without fail, Satan comes up with some way to keep her from getting to church) and she confided further to us that she has anxiety, which only adds to her reasons not to come.  But she wants to.  And she still wants to be baptized, because she really wants to do right by God.  After her though, the rest of the day was Shut Down City.  Set appointments cancelled, none of our potentials were home, we tracted a private neighborhood where no one wanted to talk to us and everyone wanted us to leave, we checked on that golden from last week and saw her truck start to come up the hill, stop, turn around, and drive the other way when she saw us.  Sigh.  By this time we'd biked about 20 miles, give or take, so we went to see a recent convert who's always glad to receive us, choosing to travel those last two miles on foot.  It gave me a lot of good time to think, while we trudged through ditches to avoid getting run over.  I had a brief commune with my Heavenly Father during this, admitting defeat basically.  "I'm sorry for whatever level of pride I may have risen to that warranted a day like today."  The scripture in Revelations came to mind:  "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten."  I knew it wasn't my fault.  I knew it wasn't punishment.  It was just part of the polishing process - the refiner's fire.  Tough love.  If this work can only be done by humble servants, He's gotta keep me on my toes somehow.  A little rain is not enough and some terrains can only be cleansed by repeated storms, I guess.

Friday, after a long stormy morning spent indoors for our weekly planning session, both my companion and I felt sufficiently depressed.  It's really hard to plan for a whole week when your investigators are dropping like flies and no one seems to want to progress.  When it was over, I rolled up in my blanket for a 20 min nap during lunch hour, praying in my heart as I drifted into a light sleep.  "I'm out of ideas, Father... I don't know what comes next... whatever you can give, I'll take..."  The song, "Consider the Lilies" as performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir started playing in my head.  It was surprisingly comforting.  For the next 20 min, I had a more restful and refreshing sleep than I've had in weeks.  I woke alert and energized, prayed again, and got this simple answer: "Go forward with faith."  Somehow the perpetual overhanging nervousness/depression was gone, and I was like, excited to go out and start the day.  I don't know how He does it.  But that's the enabling power of the Atonement right there.  Minutes later, a man stopped us on the street and asked when we were going to come over again.  He was a potential we'd briefly met once, said we'd return to when he wasn't busy, and never followed up with.  We have an appointment with him tonight, I don't know what'll happen, but if anything, that instant I felt very clearly the Spirit reminding me "Remember how I promised that I got this?  Well I got this."

Had I not had these experiences to force me into humility, President Uchtdorf's conference address might have been pretty chastening.  Instead, it was very reaffirming that my choice to force a smile through the kiln was Heavenly-Father-approved.  Speaking of General Conference, it was amazing.  I have a growing love for Elder Anderson.  When he spoke this last time, I felt like he was looking right into my soul a couple times.  His Apostolic power was so apparent and gripping, it was awesome.  You can just tell that these men have seen and heard things that we can't even imagine.  They truly are God's prophets, seers, and revelators in the latter days.  We're so fortunate to have them.  It amazes me how much we have that other people just don't know is out there.  After conference Saturday, we tracted one of those rich neighborhoods that always make me nervous, and met a kid about our age who happened to be house-sitting for his parents.  He was raised Catholic but currently is not religious, nor is he even sure who/what God is, and allowed us to share a brief message with him.  We testified that God is his loving Heavenly Father, that He has a grand plan for all of us, and that the reason we're here is to be happy.  That's all our Father wants for us.  Well, this kid seemed to like that.  He said even though getting to know God isn't really a priority for him (sad) he would be interested to read the Book of Mormon and maybe someday call us up to talk about it more.  We also promised that anytime he chose to reopen communication with his Heavenly Father again, He'd be eager to listen and ready to answer.  He thanked us for that.  As if no one had ever so earnestly stressed such regard for his personal relationship with God.  See?  Simple things like the plan of happiness.  The meaning of life.  WE KNOW IT.

We spent the Sunday sessions of general conference in M-Hall.  The family that houses us there once a week hosted a potluck and invited all the members and less actives and investigators in the county to come.  One active family, one part-member/less active family, and two investigators came.  It was a miracle.  The kind that only members can work.  (Seriously, you guys are so important. After awful Tuesday, we ended up having 10 lessons this week where members were present, that my friends is like a mission record.)  The two investigators, one YSA one primary age, cousins, ended up hanging out with the family all day.  Fellowship!  Although it was hard for them to focus on conference (shoot, it took me like 19 years to truly appreciate four hours of old men talking) we're pretty sure they could still feel the Spirit.  I'm certain nonmembers in member's homes can always feel a difference, even if they don't know what it is at first.

Other moments:
We taught like three or four super spiritual lessons and none of these individuals wanted to be baptized (not even when we stumped them logically with inarguable truths), but that just goes to show, some people you can whack in the face with the Spirit, and they still won't heed it if there's just so scared of the thought that the "traditions of their fathers" were false this whole time, that they decline learning more.  Sad story.  But we gave them a fair chance.

Didn't get to see Manson in M-Hall, but I did talk to him on the phone for awhile and he's still hating on organized religion and the idea of the prophet (I think he equates "prophet" with "tyrant") and insisted he only sticks to what Christ says in the Bible, no one else, even when I made the point using the example, "What if you lived during the time of Isaiah, who was the only one who knew about Christ at the time, would you have listened to him?"  Manson's like "Well yeah, but...."  and gives some other excuse.  Sigh.  Sister C says their easy to stump because they're wrong.  Small and simple doth confound the wise and confound the lies.  

Driving to M-Hall on Wednesday night, the baby was crying and the only way to get him to calm down was if everyone in the car sang songs.  We sang "Love One Another," "A Child's Prayer," and "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" at which point I choked a little at the overwhelming reverence that filled the car.  The Spirit had lulled the baby to sleep and wrapped the rest of us in a calming peace and sweet sense of purity, if that makes sense - like the tainted, confusing, outside world just didn't exist for a moment.

 Let all the saints rejoice, therefore, and be exceedingly glad; forIsrael’s aGod is their God, and he will mete out just recompenseof breward upon the heads of all their coppressors.
 And again, verily thus saith the Lord: Let the work of myatempleand all the works which have appointed unto you, be continued on and not cease; and let your bdiligenceand your perseverance, and patience, and your works be redoubled, and you shall in nowise lose your reward, saith the Lord of Hosts. And if they cpersecute you, so persecuted they the prophets and righteous men that were before you. For all this there is reward in heaven. [Doctrine and Covenants 127:4-5]

Sister Valdez

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