How is everyone doing? I hope that everyone had a good week and that everyone is doing well. I sure miss you guys lots! I cannot believe that my six month mark has already come and gone. Crazy how fast a mission goes. It's so long, but so fast. I don't really know how to explain it haha. You just have go on a mission to really understand what I'm talking about. The weather is still pretty warm and I haven't had to buy any winter attire yet. I can't believe that we are almost in October and it's still so warm. I feel like it's the end of July still. The mornings have been much cooler though and it's been nice to have some cooler running weather. :) I've been liking that! Sister Stratford hates when I tell her that I want to go running because she just walks and is freezing... but when I run it's perfect. Anyways, life is good. I'm still getting some mosquito bites every now and then.. but it's definitely not as bad as it used to be, so that makes me happy. We found a lizard in our house, so that was disgusting. Sister Stratford found a huge green caterpillar on the ceiling in her bathroom and got on a chair to try and catch it and totally broke the chair and fell. It was probably the funniest thing I've seen in my entire life. We were laughing so hard. Thankfully, she was okay. But still, I have never laughed harder. It was a real good time. We had 3 birthday dinners this week to celebrate mine & Sister Stratford's birthdays! Sister Stratford's birthday was on Friday and it was a really good day! I got up and made her cinnamon rolls and decorated the house.. so that was really fun. Definitely made me miss my mama and all of the little things that she does for me. Mom, you taught me how important it is to make people feel special and to "go all out" because it really makes a difference. None of this simplicity stuff! We're all about the parties. Speaking of parties... I turn 20 this week. WHAT. I'm getting so old. 20 just sounds old and I don't like it. I'm excited though. & super glad that I'm only missing one birthday... cause ya'll should know that I like my birthday. It's kinda a big deal, I mean hey. It was the day I was born. Pretty important day. hahaha. Anyways, I'm looking forward to a good week full of miracles!
Now. Oh my goodness. I don't even know where to begin. Honestly, this week was such a blur. So many things happened that I don't even know if I'll be able to keep things straight. I will first begin by telling you all my miracle story! So, I'm not sure how many of you saw my Facebook post last night.. but my miss Taylor Graham was baptized & confirmed yesterday! Yesterday was honestly the best day of my mission. I wish that you all could have been my companion during this last week. So, I ended off last weeks letter with telling you about how we were going to be teaching lesson 3 (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) to Taylor and extending a baptism date. We went over and taught her the lesson and it went really well. We originally extended the date ofOctober 17th, but that didn't work out. Taylor's mom was going to be gone the WHOLE month of October, and there was no way that Taylor would've gotten baptized without her mother there. Her mom was baptized like 20 years ago and has been the only member in their family. It's been such a journey because looking back, I remember this one night towards the beginning of my mission that Sister Ekstrom and I went over to visit Sister Graham and she let us right in and began to tell us how she was so worried about her daughter. She told us so much about Taylor.. and yet we didn't even know who she was or had never met her. It wasn't until August 27th that Taylor's mom reached out to us and told us that Taylor had requested a visit from us.
Anyways, we ended up pushing the date until November 7th because we had to make sure that Taylor's mom could be there and that was the soonest date available. Well, after Sister Stratford and I left, we sent in her date to the zone leaders and within 10 minutes got a phone call from them. They said, "Sisters. Is there any way that Taylor could be baptized sooner than November 7th? Satan is going to get a hold of her and the longer you wait... the worse it'll get. You should call her right now and ask her if she can be baptized on September 27th. (yeah, talk about best birthday present ever) Anyways, we freaked out because there was no way that that was going to happen. We have only been meeting with her for like 3 weeks and have only been able to teach her once a week.. but we prayed about it and decided that we would give her a call. So, after we called her.. she said that she was going to be out of town that day and that it wasn't going to work. She told us that we would just have to stick with November 7th. So, we called the zone leaders back and said that it wasn't an option. Well in the middle of that phone call, Taylor called us and said, "Sisters. I want to be baptized this Saturday." As in like September 19th. Like what. Is this real life? Let me remind you that this was Thursday that all of this was happening. Sister Stratford and I looked at each other and just said no. Like this can't happen. As much as we wanted it too... she hadn't even been taught any of the commandments and hadn't even been to church yet. (and before you can get baptized, you have to attend church at least 2 times) Also, lesson 4 & 5 usually take a good 6-7 lessons to even get through them because they are so long and intense. And, not to mention that it takes a little while to plan everything and coordinate for an actual baptism. It's a lot more than what you think. So much paperwork, have to figure out who's going to baptize, someone to fill the font, talks, prayers, musical numbers, typing up the program, reserving buildings, baptismal clothing, baptismal interview with district leader & zone leaders, refreshments, confirmation... the list goes on. Well, my sis and I talked and prayed about it for a few minutes and decided that we were going to call the zone leaders and figure something out. I mean people typically don't "ask to be baptized..." haha it's just not something people do all of the time so we thought we'd take advantage of it.
After we called the zone leaders, they told us that they wanted to call president and talk to him. They called us back and told us that we needed to call Taylor and go over and teach her the rest of the lessons. So, sure enough, Sister Stratford and I took 3 hours on Friday and taught Taylor the rest of the lessons. Talk about longest, most exhausting, lesson EVER. It was very spiritual, but super intense. After we taught her, we set a date for Sunday, September 20th. We knew that we couldn't get everything planned and ready in one day. It just wasn't possible. But, 2 days.. we got this. President gave us the clearance on EVERYTHING, and we went for it. Saturday morning we picked her up and went over to the church for her interview. Zone leaders said she was more than ready to be baptized and that we could move forward. All of Saturday and all of the remaining time on Sunday was baptism planning! It was absolutely insane! We were running around like chickens with our heads cut off! It was a complete MIRACLE that we had NO appointments that whole day.. like what are the chances. It was crazy! We asked some of the members that have been teaching her with us to give the talks, the man that she wanted to baptize her was available and willing to baptize her, we found a viola and piano and went to the church to make up a musical number, went over to our ward mission leader's house and typed up the program, made 2000 phone calls, bought some flowers, grabbed some pictures from her house, and started planning! IT WAS NUTS. I was in heaven. Sunday morning came and we were ready. We went to PEC and had such a spiritual meeting. The leaders of my ward are absolutely insane. They are so great. I love them so much. They honor their priesthood so well and it just blows my mind how unreal they are. They are truly men of God. 15 minutes before church started, Taylor and her mother walked in. It was the best thing in the world. Taylor's mother recognized so many familiar faces and so many people came up to her and welcomed her with open arms and she was just in tears the entire time. She hasn't been to church in 9 years. She leaned over to me and asked me if she could take the sacrament. It was such a spiritual experience for me. Watching one of God's lost children come back. BEST THING EVER. It was the primary program and they really enjoyed it! Taylor was kinda just in shock the whole meeting, but loved it. Her mom just kept hugging me all day long and it was just so amazing. After church they went home for a little while and Sister Stratford and I started to set up and get ready for everything. The baptism was at 5:00.
5:00 finally came and the whole room started to fill up. It was amazingggg. I was playing the prelude music and couldn't hold back the tears. I honestly still don't even know how everything happened. It ended up being the best baptismal service I have ever attended. The spirit was SO strong. Sister Stratford & I played a really neat arrangement of "I believe in Christ" and I was once again, amazed at the ability that the Lord gave me to play the piano. It sounded unreal. & we literally had 1 hour to practice and basically make up something. Watching Taylor walk into the water was the best thing I've ever witnessed in my life. It was also a huge miracle because usually when you have a convert baptism, you have to do the confirmation of the Holy Ghost the following Sunday in sacrament meeting. But, because Taylor was going to be gone... that wasn't going to work. They next week was General Conference, and the following week her mom would be gone. So, there was no way that she could wait 3+ weeks for the Holy Ghost. So, President Alexander got permission from the brethren to get her confirmed the same day. Like that NEVER happens. So many strings had to be pulled for this thing. Like I kept feeling like we weren't doing this the right way... but then too many things started falling into place that it was just too good to be true. I know without a doubt that the Lord was definitely in charge and that he wanted this to happen! For some reason this baptism meant way more to me than Melissa's. If you only knew the girl that Taylor was on August 27th, and the girl she is today... you would think she's a completely different person. The change that has happened in her life cannot even be described. It's insane. Watching someone change like that just gave me 100% assurance that this church is true and that the power of the Spirit is real. You have no idea. I really just can't even describe to you everything that happened this week. I don't even know if any of this makes sense... haha I'm still like in shock. Anyways, it was a COMPLETE miracle and has changed my mission forever. Sorry that was like a mile long story... it was just so insane. The picture should be on my profile page, but I'll send it too. I love Taylor with all of my heart and feel so blessed to be a part of her life. We are going to institute with her this week and I'm so excited. Institute is at President Hall's house... and I LOVE THE HALL FAMILY. So, I'm excited! Which reminds me of another miracle... President Hall canceled ALL of his interviews & meetings to attend Taylor's baptism. Like what. Who does that? Love that man to death.
Aside from the craziness of this week, I managed to have some really good studies. I absolutely love my personal study time every morning. It has changed my life. Companionship study is pretty good too.. but there is nothing like my appointment with the Holy Ghost at 8:00. :) Elder Holland once said, "A missionary will make or break his or her mission between the hours of 6:30-10:00 am." I definitely believe that is 100% true. If you have effective studies... your whole day is better. This week I studied all about obedience. I received an email last week from someone who said, "Remember obedience is the first law of heaven, the Lord will bless you as you strive to do your best, that is all he requires is our best efforts." That really hit me because it's so true. It was interesting because after I read that, I made an extra effort to be exactly obedient this past week. I set a goal to be 100% obedient in all I do, and try my very best and well.... I was DEFINITELY blessed. Blessed beyond belief. Funny how that works. :) The Lord has provided guidelines and commandments to help ensure our spiritual safety so we can make it back to Heavenly Father. The great test of life is truly OBEDIENCE. Everything goes back to obedience. Everything. I think we could all agree that we have a desire to achieve true joy and lasting happiness and there is one way to do that, and it is by being obedient to ALL of the commandments of God. We all entered into covenants with God that we would obey, yet how many of us fail to do so? We disobey every single day! Obedience to God's commandments seems to be one of man's most difficult challenges. We are all guilty of it. I know I definitely am. It's been crazy to see how many of God's commandments are being broken out here in NC too! It's absolutely insane! So, how do we fix this?
I was reading a talk the other day and came to find out that obedience must be learned. Even Christ himself had to learn obedience. In Hebrews 5:8-9 is says, "Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." If he had to learn obedience, we must learn obedience. To LEARN obedience is truly the purpose of our mortal life. This talk listed 4 ways that we can learn obedience. First, we must study the scriptures! Everyday! We must learn the consequences that come from obedience, whether they be good or bad, and those can all be learned in the scriptures. Second, we must listen too and follow the words of the prophets! & what a perfect time for that as we prepare for general conference! Ah! I cannot wait for conference! Third, we must discipline our lives in ALL things. We must repent. We must discipline ourselves to keep all of the Lord's commandments. And fourth, we must finally learn obedience, as the Savior did, by the things which we suffer. Unfortunately, we are all going to make mistakes and disobey our Father in Heaven, but, that's okay because we need to learn, and sometimes we learn from our mistakes. Most trials cause us to turn to our Heavenly Father for strength and support and in turn, teach us. Any affliction or suffering we are given is directed to give us experience, refinement, and perfection. I know that it takes a lot of effort to be obedient, but it is truly worth it in the end. It is not difficult to keep the commandments of God when we do it out of love. When we do it not because we HAVE too, but because we WANT too, because we love our Savior. Like John 14:15says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." That's really it. How much do we love our Lord and Savior? Are we willing to do all that it takes to obey him? Do we really love him like we say we do? Obedience is so important! Our rewards in the eternities are predicated on our level of obedience. Willing, righteous, obedience leads to celestial life. "Where do we currently stand in relation to the fundamental law of the celestial kingdom-- the law of obedience?" That question really makes me think. I have really come to know that obedience is the most important attribute that any of us could develop. If we learn how to obey, we will have a spot in the celestial kingdom, and I can promise you that. I have such a strong testimony of obedience. I know we cannot all be perfect, but that is why we have our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. Through him, we can be cleansed and can receive a remission of our sins, and can get up and try again. Sometimes we might not know why we are asked to do certain things, but that is where faith and trust come in. "No commandment is too small or too great to obey." Preach my Gospel says, "As you obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom." How true that is! There are soooo many blessings associated with obedience. So many.
My prayer is that each of us this week will recommit ourselves to being obedient, for it is the first law of heaven. I promise you that you will be blessed as you keep the commandments of God. As President Craven always said, "Obedience brings blessings. Exact obedience brings miracles." I have witnessed that time and time again and I know that it is true! I am so grateful for the chance that we have to learn how to obey. I am so grateful for the times that I have messed up, that have taught me to learn and to grow. I know that as we truly try our very best, he will bless up and help us succeed. Robert D Hales said, "Of all the lessons we learn from the life of the Savior, none is more clear and more powerful than the lesson of obedience." I hope you all have a wonderful week. I cannot wait to hear from you all next week. Sorry this is so long. I love you all so much and am so grateful for all of your prayers and support on my behalf. I couldn't do this without you! I love being a missionary and I know this is the work of the Lord. Love you!
"in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness—and the happiness of all His creatures, He never has—He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his laws and ordinances"
Sister Kyla Worthington