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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Week 56: Fare Thee Well, Florence

Whew!  Transfers yesterday.  What a trip.  (get my joke?  cause it was an actual trip.)
I am now in - ha.  Wait.  I'm gonna make ya'll wait.  Til next week.  For now, I'll finish up Florence.  The final week in my precious small town.  I will, however, include a photo of my new companion.  I'll miss Sister Dailey, but now she gets to stretch her little wings and fly around Florence with someone new, who hasn't tracted the entire map.

We tracted all the rich hoods this week because - why not?  I'm leavin.  I may as well spare the next sister the common experiences of rampeumptom row.  We had one last district meeting, and with the new car share we share with the elders, which means we have to drive them home afterwards.  We're girls and they're like barely out of high school so it's sufficiently awkward.  We had one last McAllisters dinner out with Sister N, one last Book of Mormon class with Brother J (our recent convert who's doing great, by the way), one last day in Mendenhall with the C family (my adopted Mississippi family), one last lesson with the spiritual-giants missionary-minded N family who gave us the referral that got baptized, one last service day cleaning out cupboards with Sister R who rewarded us with the best banana pudding ever.

At our one last taco night at Bishop's (aka the Last Supper), we helped them with their ice bucket challenge, if ya'll have heard of that.  If you get challeged, you have to dump a bucket of ice water on your head and donate to a cause, finding the cure for ALS I think it's called.  Then you challenge 3 more friends to do it, video it, and post it online.  I believe it's raised a few million dollars already.  Anyway.  That's why Sister Dailey and I poured a bucket of ice water on bishop's wife, and the elders did it for bishop.  Also, the elders gave me a 2013 Chinese calendar from a sushi buffet in their area as a going away present.  Yes, 2013.  You have to remember they like just finished high school and that counts as a thoughtful gift.

Brother D, a 60 year old recent convert, blessed the sacrament for the first time on Sunday and I wanted to cry, I was so proud.  He has such a reverence for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, it was evident in his reading of the prayer.  The spirit was so strong.  We got to see one of our crazy investigators again (an enthusiastic but flaky one) who loved our Restoration cup demonstration (where we build the church, take out the foundation of apostles and prophets to show the apostasy, and rebuild it to show the restoration).  He's still hung up on the 2nd coming because he thinks it's already happened and we're in the midst of the "first millenium" at the point of "the great deception" where Satan is loosed for a season and now we're waiting on a "3rd coming of Christ."  We didn't contend.  Just handed him a gospel principles book and referred him to the last chapters.  He said he'd been praying before our arrival and almost answered the door with "Where's my book?" because he knew one was coming.  I have a most interesting mission.

In Mendenhall, we got let right in at one house, which never happens.  But like the woman was telling us all their struggles.  Living off social security, no jobs, no transportation, no family support, husband passed away, have to go without food or nice clothing a lot of the time.  And they got "kicked out of every church they've ever gone to because they weren't wanted there I guess.  And I was like, gosh.  I know nothing about real world problems.  Like, this happens to me a lot out here.

A member family we visited was like a poster-perfect family.  Nice house, attractive kids, young-looking parents, glamorous jobs, all.  They have it all.  But as we shared a spiritual thought about scripture study, she told us she tried having family home evenings but the kids just didn't want to do it and the spouse was no help.  So they just don't have family home evening.  Or family scripture study.  Because the poor mother doesn't want contention or forced-anything.  It was so sad.

 24 And said unto them that it was the word of God; and whosowould hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it,they would never perish; neither could the temptations and thefiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, tolead them away to destruction.
 25 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto theword of the Lord; yea, did exhort them with all the energies ofmy soul, and with all the faculty which possessed, that theywould give heed to the word of God and remember to keep hiscommandments always in all things. [1 Nephi 15]
Without the word of God, how is your family to be protected?  The Spirit is in the Word and the enemy is in the world, and if you're not inviting the Spirit into your home with the Word, the world is going to take over.  Because the enemy never sleeps and he comes in with absolutely zero invitation.

Transfers yesterday was bittersweet, I kinda feel bad that I didn't cry because I was too excited.  But I'm just so stoked to be on a new adventure.  Kyle Dalton goes home today, I told him to hug Brosk for me, let's see if he remembers to.  Chatting with the greenies (fresh out the MTC) made me feel older than old.  I'm one of the vets in the mission now, and that's super weird.  13 months sounds ever so much longer than 12.  And 5 months left seems like way less than 6.  I talked to Sister Borja on the van all the way to our new zone, she and I are the only hispanic sisters in the whole mission.  She's from Paraguay.  By the end of the four hour drive we were like BFFs.  And we're in the same district, so this is gonna be a good one.  I can tell.  Also, I'm killing my new companion (that's mission lingo for this is her last transfer) so, ready set make it count!  Can't wait to show ya'll pictures of this place!

Sincerely,
Sister Valdez

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Week 55: You'll Always Be My Thunder

I don't know if I've ever had this problem before. I don't know what to write about.  Cha Cha and KK didn't make it to church yesterday.  That was sad for us.  We've called em twice since then and no answer, so we don't know what happened.  When we saw them this week, though, they told us how much they loved church last Sunday.  They were taken aback by the five of us (four of them being missionaries) there in the foyer to greet them when they walked in.  They're like "It's almost like ya'll were waitin on us" and we're like "he...heheh......yeahhh" because of COURSE we were waiting for them.  I don't think anyone but other missionaries understand how exciting it is when investigators actually show up to church.  I saw them in the foyer and almost screamed.  They also said they felt very welcome, by all the new faces that came up and said hi after sacrament.  Cha Cha said she told KK that "This is what's it's gonna feel like walkin into heaven.  It's peaceful, and you'll know people."  I think the belief that you forget everything after death and won't know anyone in heaven is a sad belief.  Don't know why anyone would wanna believe that.  We chuckled when they told us they saw the deacons lining up and nudged each other to pull out some money, thinking it was an offering plate. But then it was actually trays of blessed bread and water for the sacrament, which they said left them feeling refreshed, and was their favorite part of the meeting.  Gotta love when investigators on their first Sunday recognize what took you like 17 years to understand.  So hopefully nothing's wrong and they'll be back next Sunday!  My last in the Florence ward.  Crazy.  I'm going to miss so many of these people so much.  They really grow on you after 7 months.

I found vanilla pudding in the cupboard the other day, the kind you cook (I know right? I didn't know not-instant was a thing) and I got this crazy idea that if I cooked rice too and combined the two, it would equal rice pudding.  Guess what.  I was 100% right.  It was delicious.

We spent two hours with a sister in the ward, helping her clean out her pantry.  I'm going to miss the way she exclaims "Oh mercy!" in true southern-belle style every time she found another expired item.  I geeked out over the retro items (gatorade powder and jello boxes that look like they were made in the 80's) and we found a bag of beans that expired the day Sister Dailey's 16 year old brothers were born.  February 1998.
We broke the Pinata with barbells and karate chops.  Chocolate went flying everywhere and we were very happy!!!

My dog repellent (gift from the mailman) has proven to be invaluable.  I don't even spray it 9 times out of 10, but I don't know what we'd do without it.  Huge dogs will come bounding toward us when we're not even close to their driveway, barking like beasts, and while Sister Dailey freezes with fright and prepares to die, I pull out my little dog-mace can, point it like a weapon, and tell them hey, we ain't even on your turf, so back off or you get a facefull.  They always back off.


Sister Dailey gets more points every time I make a reference she understands.  This week is was Thunder, the song by Boys Like Girls (shout out to my high school obsession).  You know the one that goes,
"Your voice was the soundtrack of my summer,
Do you know you're unlike any other
You'll always be my thunder"
Well she and I will have been working together from beginning of June to end of August, so this is officially our companionship song.  Plus, I don't think I've endured as many thunderstorms with anyone else as I have with her, both of the literal and the emotional variety.

Sister C, elderly less active we've been visiting for weeks who hasn't come to church yet, was a lot different when we came over last.  Her face didn't look so heavy, and she said she had something to tell us about.  She'd been at the pharmacy to pay for medications, but her card was mistakenly showing an insufficient balance.  With no other way to pay, and these being very necessary medications, she was at a complete loss, until the woman in line behind her hands the guy her own card and pays it off, then turns to Sister C and says "You've been blessed."  She was floored.  This is the same sister who asked God one night, "Where are you?  Did you forget about me?" and the next day me and Sister Creager knocked on her door.  This time, she said "I got this feeling that Heavenly Father does love me.  Just like ya'll said.  It was a really sweet feeling."  It's the simplest of doctrines, the most basic of eternal truths, that some of us so easily forget; and when forgotten, it's so easy to stray.  But the relearning of these things, usually through small and simple means, can change a person like nothing else can, can turn their hearts and point them back to the path they'd forgotten.  How powerful and how vital is an understanding of this truth: I am a child of God.

At Zone Conference, our focus was the Book of Mormon.  I made Sister Dailey and the elders read out loud from Ether on the drive up, because I love the story of the Brother of Jared, and was reminded how incredible the Book of Mormon is.  In such a limited space of pages, there is SO MUCH packed in.  So many stories, so much doctrine, so much truth, so much consolation and comfort and chastisement and encouragement, and it's different every time you read it.  During the conference, we practiced ways we can better use it in our teaching.  We all believe this book is true, is the word of God, and yet we're hesitant sometimes to open it with other people and share straight out of it.  Maybe it's because we're afraid they won't understand.  But if their hearts are open, they'll get something out of it somehow.  That, I have seen happen.  I regret not sharing the Book of Mormon with more of my friends and associates back home, especially those who were open with me about their personal struggles.  I guess I didn't realize what I had.  But now I do, and I'm going to be proactive about it after my mission.  I mean, if I could easily and enthusiastically talk to a girlfriend about He's Just Not That Into You, the dating advice book that changed my life, why can't I just as zealously talk about the Book that changed my life and continues to change it daily?  Something to think about.  Also during the conference, a couple of our leaders finished their instruction by bearing testimony, and I don't even know what they said, but I closed my eyes and asked Heavenly Father to reaffirm my testimony of the Book of Mormon.  And He did.  It was a sweet feeling.  Calm, but powerful.  Kind of like thunder in the distance.  Gentle, but immense.  I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.

 10 And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.
 11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words... [2 Nephi 33]

Now, "power and great glory" may not be a grand heavenly manifestation, but they are found in the every day things if you only notice them.  The answers to questions, the sweet feelings of assurance.  The Lord is quick to show His hand, is the point I guess I relearned this week.  With Sister C, I was fresh out of ideas of what we could do for her, how we could help her understand that God knows her and loves her.  And I didn't have to do anything.  He took care of it.  I do what I can do, and He does what He can do, always.  But you still have to do what you can do.  That's the catch.

Sincerely,
Sister Valdez

So who or what really is a yogi?

Well, it is someone who has dedicated their entire life to yoga; they stand in tree pose for days on rocks and meditate. They probably don’t pay $20 to go to a yoga class. They are sages, and frankly their numbers are few.
If you want to discuss what a real yogi is, it is definitely not the Lulelemon-wearing sorority girl who can afford the expensive class fees on a frequent basis. Sure, if you want to call yourself a yogi to identify yourself as someone who practices asana, that is fine by me. You may be in it just for the workout, or maybe you really do appreciate the other aspects to yoga; what it brings to your life besides a healthier body.
In this day and age, yoga is here to help center and ground us in an unstable, frightening society. It can teach us to be nicer to strangers, to smile more often, to calm our minds with our breath, and to embrace our potential and not be discouraged by things we cannot control. That is what is beautiful about yoga in this day and age.
It is not the perfect body, the clothing lines, being vegetarian, or how often you actually get on your mat. It’s about embracing our humanity and making us better people. Definitely not about changing us. We should still be the same person before incorporating yoga into our lives, just in an enhanced form.

Oh, and by the way, yoga is not a “life within a life.” It is a method of living life. And it is nowhere near perfection.


avatar

About


Devan Oschmann is a Yoga Teacher and Creator of Root2Rise Yoga and Holistic Health based out of Austin, Texas. A Wisconsin native, she has spent the majority of her life cultivating Midwestern wholesomeness and honing holistic practices. She is currently a Masters student at the Academy of Oriental Medicine and enjoys spending her time teaching yoga and advocating wellness. She also enjoys a hardy, sweaty yoga workout, spending time outdoors and with her dog, cooking, and drinking Wisconsin beer.
- See more at: http://yoganonymous.com/stop-the-stereotyping-5-yogi-labels-that-need-to-be-addressed/#sthash.uoDiN1ce.dpuf

So who or what really is a yogi?

Well, it is someone who has dedicated their entire life to yoga; they stand in tree pose for days on rocks and meditate. They probably don’t pay $20 to go to a yoga class. They are sages, and frankly their numbers are few.
If you want to discuss what a real yogi is, it is definitely not the Lulelemon-wearing sorority girl who can afford the expensive class fees on a frequent basis. Sure, if you want to call yourself a yogi to identify yourself as someone who practices asana, that is fine by me. You may be in it just for the workout, or maybe you really do appreciate the other aspects to yoga; what it brings to your life besides a healthier body.
In this day and age, yoga is here to help center and ground us in an unstable, frightening society. It can teach us to be nicer to strangers, to smile more often, to calm our minds with our breath, and to embrace our potential and not be discouraged by things we cannot control. That is what is beautiful about yoga in this day and age.
It is not the perfect body, the clothing lines, being vegetarian, or how often you actually get on your mat. It’s about embracing our humanity and making us better people. Definitely not about changing us. We should still be the same person before incorporating yoga into our lives, just in an enhanced form.

Oh, and by the way, yoga is not a “life within a life.” It is a method of living life. And it is nowhere near perfection.


avatar

About


Devan Oschmann is a Yoga Teacher and Creator of Root2Rise Yoga and Holistic Health based out of Austin, Texas. A Wisconsin native, she has spent the majority of her life cultivating Midwestern wholesomeness and honing holistic practices. She is currently a Masters student at the Academy of Oriental Medicine and enjoys spending her time teaching yoga and advocating wellness. She also enjoys a hardy, sweaty yoga workout, spending time outdoors and with her dog, cooking, and drinking Wisconsin beer.
- See more at: http://yoganonymous.com/stop-the-stereotyping-5-yogi-labels-that-need-to-be-addressed/#sthash.uoDiN1ce.dpuf

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Week 54: Things of a Better

We're comin down to the wire in Florence, now.  In interviews with the mission president, Pres confirmed that I'm finally transferring out in two weeks.  I love this town to death and it feels like no less than home by now, but it's been 7 months and I've knocked on 87% of the houses here.  The rest were done by the sisters before me.  I think that means it's time to give someone else a turn.  But this last transfer has been so killer and I'm so blessed to have been able to stay extra long.
The couple I mentioned last week, KK and Cha Cha*, who got hooked after a POS lesson:  still strong.  Taught them 8 times in two weeks.  And guess what else?  THEY CAME TO CHURCH!!! :D  They could only stay for sacrament, but it was a good one.  We'd brought five different members of the ward over so they already knew some people, and five more members introduced themselves after the meeting.  May or may not have had something to do with the talk our assistant ward mission leader gave on the three-fold mission of the church and calling them all to repentance.  Elder Homer and I also got to sing a duet in sacrament, "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy" to drive the point home.  Your friends' eager eyes are watching, longing.  And in the darkness they may be lost.  However, You may rescue, you may save.  
Brother S came to teach KK and Cha Cha with us the other night, and told his conversion story.  It sounds like movie, basically.  Crazy teen life, tragedy strikes, a friend in his last moments says "Man, you have to turn your life around," so he does and on the one day he happens to have football cancelled, the missionaries show up.  And now he's got an eternal family.  Cool huh?  KK was really touched by story, as he'd had similar experiences.  He said the closing prayer and thanked Heavenly Father for Brother S being there and sharing his story.  I've started doing this thing where I put on instrumental music in the car, and then I imagine how the lesson is gonna go, and them coming to church, and them getting baptized, and then sealed in the temple.  Well part of my "vision" this time included Brother S and KK bro-hugging after the lesson.  When we left their home, they totally bro-hugged.  Moral: Envisioning success really works.

I got a package on Thursday that 100% made my day.  A pinata.  Yes.  An entire candy-filled pinata, plus sour patch kids.  Who sent them?  My good old band brothers, the Castle Town Convicts themselves - Chris and Jose.  Currently in the process of finding something suitable to bust the pinata with.  In the meantime, sour patch kids kept us going tracting yesterday.  We were out in the pouring rain, typical, but when we went to a new street and pulled up at the end of a dead end road, we were about to get out when a young man, probs my age, comes up and taps the window.  Scared Sister Dailey, but he was the nicest guy, invited us to come talk to his fam on the porch.  I swear he's secretly Californian.  He's a non-denominational Christian, believes in God but not religion, is super chill and yet intelligent as well, and doesn't talk like the people around here.  We taught them the Restoration (over the sound of the rain) and while his father didn't say much, his teen sister participated in the discussion and he said he'd be interested to read the Book of Mormon.  I'll be darned if he doesn't relate to Joseph Smith way more than he realizes (i.e. is the reason he chose non-denominational - he hadn't found the truth yet because we hadn't found HIM yet).  And by the way, we never have lessons like this.  Where people actually welcome us in and proceed to actually understand what we teach.l  This was like a miracle moment.

In other news, we finished the great pear preserves project with the member family and I found out that God really does show you your weakness when you ask.  After praying to be shown what I need to work on, I somehow ended up in Doctrine and Covenants 25.

Behold, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an elect lady,whom have called.
 Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee and from the world, which is wisdom in me in time to come.
10 And verily say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this worldand seek for the things of better.

 13 Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoiceand cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made.
I received similar and more specific counsel from the Holy Ghost, from a concerned Sister Training Leader on exchanges, and from my mission president during interviews.  Namely, "Stop obsessing about your appearance."  But in much more loving words.  It's sneaky and bothersome how something as good and wholesome as a health kick can somehow warp into a slight obsession with weight/diet/body image.  I promise it was to no extreme, what happened was I just started thinking about my appearance way more often than I should, so it was throwing off my focus.  But don't worry.  No disorders or anything.  I'm back on track now.  As stated, I've had dessert like every night this week so the old me is back.  Still trying to keep my health up.  But not freaking out over how my tummy looks in fitted shirts.  The lines are fine and the adversary is so tricksy in how he can inch-by-inch nudge you over them.  You lost this round, Satan.  Holy Ghost wins.  

Refocusing has proven to be a daily struggle (as most of ya'll know, I've always been a little head-in-cloudsy) but we continue to find joy in our work.  Driving in the rain.  Cute dogs who don't look diseased or like they want to tear your limbs off.  Introducing investigators to church websites and then hearing about how they stayed up til 2am watching Bible Videos.  Rice krispie treats and cookies from caring members.  Helping your comp identify the signs of intoxication so she knows when to bring up the Word of Wisdom to recent converts who slip up.  It's a blessed work.  We do give up a lot to get to the mission field, and even more while we are here in it.  But what Heavenly Father gives us in return is so much better.

Sincerely,
Sister Valdez

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Week 53: Voice of Lightning

Well.  It happened.  A baptism.  It took a year, but it happened.  And it was perfect.
(By the way, I've been a missionary for an entire year last Thursday, is that wild or what?)
So Brother J got baptized by his son-in-law.  His daughter gave one of the talks and his grandkids sang the "I like to look for rainbows" baptism song and it was super precious.  He was confirmed the next day in sacrament, and advised in the blessing to look forward to the temple and work toward it.  He's retired and single, which I believe translates to "perfect candidate for hecka family history work."  As I said before, he was so prepared and accepted it all so readily (because he felt peace about it the whole time) that I basically did nothing as a missionary but relay the lessons and the Spirit done the rest.  But still.  Mucho blessed to have been able to take some small part in the process, and equal part in the rejoicing.

For my year mark on July 31st, Sister Dailey made me a "Happy Mish Day" sign and got me a pie for breakfast because she's the sweetest companion ever.  We spent the day in M-Hall and finally got to teach that legit young family that we've only taught once but I had a dream about and knew we had to follow up with.  They were home this time, so we taught the Plan of Salvation and when we talked about eternal marriage and families, the wife lit up and looked at her husband.  They both agreed that sounded way better than "til death do us part."  They're planning on moving to the coast soon, which will be great because then they won't feel that obligation to attend the church here that they grew up in (traditions of their fathers is a real obstacle in these parts) and would only be made greater if I were to get transferred to the coast at the end of the month.  Fingers crossed and praying for it.

You know how Aaron (Broseph) always called me a muffler because I like to muffle and no one can hear me?  Well I'm learning more and more that the Holy Ghost likes to muffle too.  We were planning one night and I got the idea to write down to tract a certain road on Friday.  So I did.  Not even thinking it was inspired or anything.  And that's where we ended up, despite there being no promising prospects in that whole neighborhood.  We tracted the remainder of it anyway and got let in to a home of three after an awkward door approach and the woman had randomly told us that her mother had recently passed.  I don't think any of us were sure why she let us in, but she did and we sat down with her and her fiance and her heavily grieving father and taught the Plan of Salvation.  It was likely the most beautiful lesson I've ever been in.  They asked questions and listened closely and expressed individual concerns about salvation, and at the end the fiance prayed, thanking God for sending us to provide answers he'd been in need of, and she called us guardian angels.  We walked away from that house, floating, squealing, and crying a little bit because it was flawless and that has never happened before to either of us.  We've had the great opportunity to teach them four more times in the last week, and three different members of the ward have come to assist us.  They take it all in and continue to ask questions, but are hesitant to agree to baptism because of bad experiences with former churches, which is common and expected.  Now they just need to attend a service with us.  Always the hardest part.  But if they're sincere, they'll make a way.  The third time we went over and it was just the woman, she told us that the day after our first visit, her father who was usually a noon-sleeper, had woken at six in the morning to clean the house.  S
he asked him why and he said because for the first time, he had hope that he'd see his wife again.  I smiled so hard I near broke my face.  He said when we came over, we were glowing and happy and he wanted to be like that.  "well then we better do what they say," the daughter had responded.  That's what I like to hear.  Those who seek shall find; those who act will learn, that this gospel is the real deal.

For service this week we learned how to can pears and I learned that I can't peel fruits with small knives without nicking my fingers in five places.  Band-aided fingers is kind of embarrassing and makes me feel like a five year old.

Tender mercies yesterday.  Sister Dailey and I made it to our tracting area on bikes without passing out.  We stood up to a guy who wanted to bash with us and spoke calmly the whole time without blowing any jets or punching his face in.  We met an old man who told us his life story before he'd even learned our names and then listened earnestly to the message of the Restoration, promising he'd let the Spirit of Truth guide him as he read the Book of Mormon.  Which is exactly what we were about to ask him to do.  We broke our fast and lamented that there was no dessert in the house, then went back out to work and dropped in on a member who's less active relatives were over.  And she gave us homemade chocolate cake from scratch.  We biked home when we saw the lightning so we wouldn't get electrocuted, then proceeded to stand outside out apartment for the next 45 minutes, just watching the clouds light up like camera flashes and bright white streaks split the sky, like fascinated children.  It was lovely.  And very poetic.  We took videos and pictures and I sang Ma Belle Evangeline to my companion.  "Look how... she lights up... the skyyyy....." as we beheld this marvelous scene of sublimity, and I felt an odd but welcome contentment and joy, even, that something as natural as a lightning storm could be such a thing of wonder.  But the tender mercies of the Lord are just that: simple, natural, and tailor-made for each of us.

We taught the young women in the ward yesterday, and what was originally supposed to be a gospel-sharing-with-your-peers tutorial, ended up being a discussion (well, a lecture, because discussion would require student participation) on true conversion and our duty to share the gospel with everyone because otherwise they perish and we won't be exalted and if we don't share the blessings, we're being ungrateful.  Not in so many words of course.  I fear I may have been a little too enthusiastic (seconds away from standing on my chair) and preachy, and maybe I just turned a roomful of girls off to the idea of serving a mission ever because it makes you crazy and preachy.  But I thought I was following the Spirit on that one, so hopefully it did some good to someone.  I worry perpetually about the youth of the church.  I fear that they lack the desire to be different, and the courage to be valiant.  The world says blend in.  The Lord says be peculiar.  Only one will bring you happiness and it's not the first.

21 For if I, who am a man, do lift up my voice and call upon you to repent, and ye hate me, what will ye say when the day cometh when the thunders shall utter their voices from the ends of the earth, speaking to the ears of all that live, saying—Repent, and prepare for the great day of the Lord?
 22 Yea, and again, when the lightnings shall streak forth from the east unto the west, and shall utter forth their voices unto all that live, and make the ears of all tingle that hear, saying these words—Repent ye, for the great day of the Lord is come? [D&C 43]

Your ears tingling?  The day is come, indeed.  We're in the fullness of times now, which is both great and terrible.  But the righteous, as they say, will see these things come to pass and not fear, but look forward with joy and gladness to the second c
oming of our Savior.  Wake up.  Look up.  Heavenly Father hand's is everywhere, preparing hearts, paving roads, and sometimes painting skies.  This is a wonderful time to be partakers - and sharers - of the one true gospel.  The prophets, both living and dead, have told us what to do to prepare.  Lightnings are streaking forth, criers of repentance are crying - and what will ye say?  I say, don't waste no time.  After being here a year, I've learned it's true as they say: you blink, you might miss it.  Wake up.  Look up.  And be valiant.  God's power is real, and His promises sure.

Sincerely,
Sister Valdez

Week 52: Trump It

Don't think I'm obsessed.  But another thing happened at Bishop's last night.  So first he tells us about the red heifer that a jew found in the US.  If you ain't read about it in the old testament (Numbers ch. 19), the significance of this rare bovine is that a) there's only been nine found previously in all of recorded history, making this the tenth (coughLOSTTRIBEScough) and b) such a heifer is a requirement to purify the grounds and the priests before the Jews can rebuild their temple in Jerusalem which they've been waiting to do for forever, so c) now that they found themselves a ginger cow, THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM IS GOIN UP AND IT PROBS WON'T TAKE BUT A YEAR.  I know it's wild, but try to stay calm.  True, this is not the LDS temple that's supposed to be up before 2nd coming, however.  This temple was prophesied of as well.  And the BYU center in Jerusalem could easily be converted into a temple at a moment's notice, so like, that's not too far off either.  This isn't all we discussed last night.  Bish told us about these weird noises that people are hearing all over the world and no one's sure where they're coming from.  But when you play the sound clips sped up, they sound a lot like Jewish trumpets.  What's that our eastward facing Moroni's got in their hands atop every temple? A TRUMPET maybe????  And what's supposed to sound to herald the second coming?  A...... TRUMPET?????  This isn't the crazy part though.  When we leave our dinner appointment, we walk outside and are about to head down the dark driveway to our car, when the silence of the night is broken by a strange, low sound coming from afar off.  The sound of a trumpet.  Next thing, Bishop's wife hears a thud and turns to see four sister missionaries slammed up against her back door, screaming.  May or may not have been crying too and got permission to have a sleepover so we wouldn't be alone last night.
 25 How oft have called upon you by the mouth of my servants,and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderingsand by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of trumpand by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not! [D&C 43]

 92 And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with aloud voice, sounding the trump of God, saying: Prepare ye,prepare ye, inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. [D&C 88]

It's everywhere.  So the bishop called us back a little while later after we told him about it.  He went outside to listen for himself and eventually heard what we heard.  Turns out it was a neighbor blowing his hunting horn to train his coon huntin' dogs.  But still.  Even bishop agreed, it was an odd coincidence that his neighbor would be training at night in the dark at the very moment we went outside on the night we talked about the trumpets.  There are no coincidences.  It was a sign to let us know that no, we're not crazy, and yes, everything we've been talking about concerning the end times is super real.  If you read the Doctrine and Covenants, it's in like, every other section.

Back to like, my missionary work though.  Went on exchanges with Sister Parmenter on Tuesday in Richland.  We're kinda fed up with young dudes in trailer parks who only talk to us because we're young and attractive, fifteen minutes wasted and they didn't get a word of the Restoration.  But we did talk to a young adult in front of his apartment, ended up teaching the full restoration, and he asked where our church was.  Then he told us he'd seen the sister missionaries riding their bikes in the rain one day and told his brother that if they ever talked to him, he'd go to their church because of how dedicated they are.  Heck yeah.  That's why we bike in the rain.

Sister Dailey and I taught the Book of Mormon class again this week, led a discussion about the army of Helaman.  Two investigators were in the class, one of theirs and one of ours, and a member with a killer conversion story.  Spirit was so strong.  And our inv, Brother J, is solid.  At long last.... gators that understand what they read and can discuss it.  We taught Brother J after church yesterday - well, we meant to.  But he ended up teaching US about tithing and fasting and committed himself to do it before we even asked.  You're making this too easy for us, Brother J! we said.  I had a wonderful living example, he said.  His daughter's family are like the most solid family ever.

This week's M-Hall adventure was a guy who drove up to us while we were tracting, looking sufficiently hood with a bandana on his head and studs in his ears. Had this wild and troubled look in his eyes as we followed him into a laundry room so he could ask us for help with his house that is haunted (different from a haunted house, those are not life threatening).  He claimed to have video on his phone (which thankfully was not with him) of the bad mumbo jumbo that he's been seeing in the halls, something about child-age spirits, roaring sounds, and the walls turning red.  Poor guy seemed legit scared, and swore no drug or alcohol use or satanic practice was going on in his home.  He'd stopped us recognizing us as spiritual people, but unfortunately we don't have the priesthood to handle these kinds of things.  So we took down his info and passed it on to the bishop, but he said he and his counselors would have to consider and pray about this before attempting a cleansing.  I guess even bishoprics get freaked out by bad mumbo jumbo.

Pioneer day was not nearly as extravagant as Cassie's Utah-scale celebration, but there were pancakes and a pie contest (my Oreo pie took first place, shout out to mom for the recipe) and a baptism for a family of five.  Glorious day.  Next week is our turn.  Brother J all the way!  In the meantime, the hunt for the elect continues (so we don't go into a state of depression when he's baptized and we don't have a golden inv anymore), and rest assured we'll be raising our voices like unto a trump.  The urgency is real.





 Behold, say unto you that it is my will that you should go forth and not tarry, neither be idle but labor with your might—
 Lifting up your voices as with the sound of trump, proclaiming the truth according to the revelations and commandments which have given you. [75]
 And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by twoin my name, lifting up your voices as with the sound of trumpdeclaring my word like unto angels of God. [42]
 106 And in all his journeyings let him lift up his voice as with the sound of trump, and warn the inhabitants of the earth to flee the wrath to come. [124]
 To lift up your voice as with the sound of trumpboth long and loud, and cry repentance unto crooked and perverse generation,preparing the way of the Lord for his second coming. [34]

Off I go to trump it out and prepare the way.  Hope ya'll are doing the same!  The Lord needs us all in this!
Sincerely,
Sister Valdez