Saturday, February 23, 2013

The RM who can't figure out how to wear jeans yet...

This is Ronda Castellli. I lived in her home in Farmington, NM for 7 1/2 Months. I adore her! She was my mom. As in I would do ANYTHING for this amazing woman. 

This is Sister Orr, Sister Isaacson, and Myself... Sister Orr is one of the younger sister missionaries...and she is being trained by my beloved "Sis. Kelsey"...who I trained in Farmington. SOOOO exciting. I got to be a Grandmother on my last day in the field. 

These are my Blanding Buddies. Sister Maynez, my last companion, and dear friend. Then Elder Lewis, and Elder Theime.

Me and Sister Kost in the Durango Airport, trying not to freak out...but not really succedding at it.

After being release, and crying my eyes out, and walking home hand in hand with my dad...I really just wanted to be back in my bed in Blanding at this point.
Hello Everyone! I am soooo sorry that it has taken me 2 weeks to write on my blog. I have heard form many of you that you already miss my weekly I hope I can at least give you something to read.

If you were not able to make it to my talk last Sunday, here is the gist of it....with minor alterations in the actual presentation, depending on the Spirit.

I served in the New Mexico Farmington Mission, which was a mission recently created to focus on the Children of Lehi who live here in the southwest. Our mission covered the Navajo, Ute, Zuni, Apache, and Hopi Reservations. Every missionary gains a testimony of the Book of Mormon, but there is something special about loving and teaching the very people the Book of Mormon was written to.
I have taught in cities and towns, apartments, mansions, and one room hogans with dirt floors, and no electricity or running water. But it didn’t matter where I was, or who I was speaking to, because the message I shared was universal. God loves YOU. He loves each and every one of His children. He always has and always will. He showed his love by sending prophets who show you how to live to be truly happy. His ultimate goal is YOUR happiness.
My favorite lesson to teach was the Plan of Salvation, because it was all about love and happiness. The plan is often called the Plan of Happiness; but I decided long ago I would always think of it as a Plan of Love. God’s love is the center of it all.
Heavenly Father had a family, a rather large one; and He desired the success and happiness of each of His children. He wanted them to grow and mature to become all that they could, to reach the potential He saw in them. Preach My Gospel says, “God’s whole purpose – his work and his glory – is to enable each of us to enjoy ALL His blessings.” He wants us to FIND those blessings, as in seek and attain peace and joy.
Your Heavenly Father took the time to personally teach you. I can imagine Him sitting you down, like a young child, and saying, “I want you to grow sweetheart. I want you to have everything. You are going to have to leave me to figure this out. But I am going to give you a great blessing: you get to choose how you want to act. You will choice your path. I will give you guidance, but you decide how to follow it.” He prepared you and then sent you to earth, innocent and ready to learn. You said goodbye to your dear friends, and entered a world created just for you. Your understanding grew little by little.
I realized early on in my missionary service, that everything I needed to know to teach and be a missionary, I learned in Primary. I was so concerned about teaching everything  just right, that I complicated the most basic of ideas. Eventually my trainer helped me realize that I should initially teach as though it were to a primary class, because that is the level of the person’s spiritual development. I learned that the simple and yet profound truths of the Gospel can be found in the primary hymns. For example, children learn exactly where they came from:
I lived in heaven a long time ago it is true.
Lived there and loved there by people I know. So did you.
Then Heavenly Father Presented a beautiful plan.
All about earth and eternal salvation for man.
You chose to be here, to experience the confusion and peace, the joy and despair, the giggles and tears. Your outcome depends on how you handle the situations at hand. Father in Heaven told you in the beginning that it all has to do with your choices. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ counseled together and said in Abraham 3:25: “We will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.”
So now you are here. You start as a child. You learn: how to tie your shoes, to read, to ride a bike, drive a car, hold a job, be a parent…But you also use your agency to learn spiritual things: how to study the scriptures, pray sincerely, listen and act according to the spirit, make covenants, keep covenants, and ultimately become Christ like.
Another Primary song illustrates this:
I’m trying to be like Jesus; I’m following in his ways.
I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers…
As you learn to be like Christ, you start to find joy along your way. Keeping the commandments allows you to experience real happiness, the kind that seems to bubble up gleefully from your toes, and spill over all around you. You start to smile at the children jumping in puddles. You love to sit and talk and embrace the company of others. You laugh out loud and let it fill the room. Your soul is filled with a peace that feels more like an eternal hug than a feeling of stillness. The simple pleasures in life become treasures.
For example, I have found much joy in the last year and a half, doing things that would never have stood out or happened before: Chopping wood in a skirt, making fry bread until I was coated in four, getting stuck in summer rain storms, squishing through red sticky mud, embracing and loving all things made with green chili, meeting new friends (who must have been old friends from the premortal realm), and drooling over the beauty of different colors of dirt in the cliff sides.
But the joy I gained from choosing righteously was nothing compared to some of the joy felt by those who acted to change their lives. My calling was to help others see their potential for peace as they applied the teachings of Jesus Christ. The best example of this mighty change was Jennifer. When we began teaching, she was slightly hesitant and wasn’t sure this was what she was looking for. She had a lifestyle very different from the one you and I live, and she felt comfortable there. As we taught, she was very nervous to pray, and didn’t like that we asked her to give the closing prayer at most lessons. Slowly her heart began to change and she embraced the gospel, and found herself gaining courage to pray harder and more often. She excitedly agreed to be baptized, and we decided to have a special lesson the week before her baptism to celebrate.
We drove to Four Corners National Monument, and had the lesson there. We started with an opening prayer in New Mexico and introduced the lesson. Five minutes in, we moved to Arizona, after 10 minutes we found ourselves in Utah, and finished powerfully with testimonies in Colorado. As the lesson concluded, I had a selfish thought, “Oh, wouldn’t it be SOOO cool to have the closing prayer on the center point? How many missionaries get to do that? One prayer in 4 states at the same time!!” I tried to put off the thought, but it wouldn’t go away. I finally decided to ask if she wanted to. Her eyes got big. “Oh, can we? Let’s do it!” There were people walking all around, so as we got up close, I wondered what her reaction would be. I was prepared to pray, but as we each situated our toes on the center plate, and stood there with our arms folded, I opened my mouth to speak, and I heard Jennifer’s voice instead. She prayed fervently and confidently and thanked the Lord for the blessing of the Gospel in her life.
We got back into the car, and she exploded in a moment of happiness. “Sisters, I am SO GLAD that we prayed there. I felt so good! I wanted to stand tall and yell and tell everyone there that I was going to be baptized! This is what I am going to do! I am going to be a Mormon, and I am PROUD of it. I love this! I want everyone to know how happy I am.”
Jennifer understood what true happiness could be. She chose to follow Christ, and be a disciple. Jennifer’s trials did not end there, but she learned that Heavenly Father would be by her side along the journey. Each of you have and will experience hardships, but the beauty is that we have the Atonement to raise us from the depths of pain, forgive us for our mistakes and sins, and lift us to a new empowered level. The Atonement is the greatest example of Love Heavenly Father can show us. His “Plan of Hapiness and Love” would not work without Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection.
I finally understand a portion of the Atonement. I was praying and praying to understand it for months, and I couldn’t figure out why my prayers were not being answered. I felt stuck in a trial that I could not bring myself out of. Why couldn’t I make my companion happy? How could I overcome her oppressive comments? When will I get out of this? How come my level of understanding of the Atonement was not deepening? Why in the moment of this deep and painful trial was I not being empowered? How come? Why? When?
I was so blind. I was focused on me, and what I could do. He was answering my pleas, by sending me a companion who gave me the opportunity to apply the Atonement. He stood there the whole time, sayings, “Let me take your burden. You don’t have to carry it. Let me in, and you will find yourself. You will have peace, if you stop trying to be so independent. Let me heal you.”
I finally embraced him, and noticed the hand reaching down to lift me up. He forgave me of my shortcomings and faults. He healed my broken and depressed heart, and He made me stronger than I have ever been. The Atonement can and will do that for EACH of you…IF you CHOOSE to let it. You can choose happiness. You can choose to feel and embrace His Love.
Another Primary song, helps the children to recognize why they are here, what they have to do, and where they are going.
My life is a gift; my life has a plan.
My life has a purpose; in heaven it began.
My choice was to come to this lovely home on earth,
And seek for God’s light to direct me from birth.
I will follow God’s plan for me,
Holding fast to his word and his love.
I will work, and I will pray; I will always walk in his way.
Then I will be happy on earth and in my home above.
You are seeking for that home above. Someday, the time to choose in this life, will end. Your spirit will separated from your body as your body will stays on earth, and your spirit moves to the Spirit World. If you have made righteous choices, you will find yourself  in a realm of peace and happiness. You will know that you have lived your life in a way that makes Heavenly Father proud. You will have the opportunity to share the gospel with those who did not know about its blessings, and you will help them find the joy that you have already experienced. They are able to choose how to act and what to do, because God’s gift of agency still continues on. You will have the blessed experience of feeling God’s love for his children, and having that love and joy swell as you watch them make changes in their life. If you teach Heavenly Father’s children here or in the Spirit World, the goal is still the same.
The ultimate goal is to see these individuals again in the Celestial Kingdom. What joy that experience will bring. The most tender moment of my mission, was when a dear soul testified to me, that they would do all in their power to reach the Celestial Kingdom, because they wanted to live in peaceful bliss. Heavenly Father wants you to return to him. He wants you to be happy there, and he wants you to have your family by your side.
This is His Plan of Love: what greater love exists, than that within a family? What greater happiness is there, than a family joined together in smiles and memories? Do you desire to be with your parents? Do you want to embrace your children in the Celestial Kingdom? Then make the choices necessary to do so. Remember the simple words of the Primary hymns,
I have a family her on earth.
They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them through all eternity.
Families can be together forever,
Through Heavenly Father’s plan.
I always want to be with my own family,
And the Lord has shown me how I can.
The Lord has shown me how I can.

Monday, February 4, 2013

I think the closet threw up in our room

February 4, 2013 (email)

So, I am packed. Totally done. We are just waiting on the Monticello Sisters to be ready to go so we can caravan.

It has been a totally surreal week. We had intended to have a really busy week with lessons, but it was a really busy week with everything else.

Last Monday we helped a family move, and Sister Maynez had an asthma attack. It got really bad by dinner time, so I took her to the ER. We had to deal with all of that....but then it didn't get better the next day, so we had to spend another day at the hospital. We had 2 slightly normal days and then we had packing, and planning, and packing, and packing, and saying good bye, and all sorts of crazy stuff.

I included a photo of me and Sister Maynez, at our final district lunch...she was trying really hard to smile, but it came out more of a grimace. And I put a photo of her in the ER, rather upset at me that I was documenting such an "embarrassing" night.

This morning was the big day that I have been waiting for...for 3 weeks. Not that I got to pack up and leave...but that I got to "spar" against an Elder. Elder Lewis pushes my buttons in a friendly way. He has quick sarcastic jabs that are much more clever than mine, and he always beats me to the conversational punch. I have been asking to duke it out with him for weeks. The kid is tall and lanky, and his arms were so long that he could totally hold my head and I couldn't touch him. We were all wearing gloves and protective leg guard we were supposed to let each other have it. One problem: I am all talk. When it came down to it, I couldn't fathom actually hitting someone. It took all morning, and even then our fight was lame, because I couldn't get anything on him. I only had one good hit to the face...and he got me....too many times. He went really easy on me, but you know that he thoroughly enjoyed beating on an obnoxious sister. At the end of the fight, I convinced him to just hold his arms up and let me have at his stomach. He was kind enough to just let me pound on him....until I finished, and turned my back, and he wiped out my legs and I found myself on the mat staring at him. It was a fun new experience to spar, but I don't think I care to do it again. I will be content to watch Brother Ford, the MMA fighter, fight in Salt Lake in March. (Did I tell you I was going to that? He is getting me free tickets!!!!)

As for the teaching and missionary work, we finally figured out how to teach one of our not all mentally with it investigators. We have struggled with Becca since the beginning, and we finally learned that if you go on a walk with her and help her to get moving, her brain starts to work a lot too. She was really receptive, and answered questions, and even better, she asked her own questions. This was such a big deal to us!!!!

Are any of you old enough to know what a Cottage Meeting is? I didn't know...until I got roped into one. It was slightly awkward, because I didn't know what was going on, but I think that it has potential to be very helpful in exposing neighbors and friends to gospel connected things, in a very nonthreatening way.

It is truly odd to know that this has come to an end, but to not have it register yet. My room is totally empty. My things are smashed into a suitcase (and I was so meticulous with my packing, that I have it down to weight allotments for each bag) (Sister Maynez was shocked that I was able to condense and fit everything together like a game of tetras). I have decided what to keep, what to toss, what I need to come home now, and what others can bring up in 2 weeks. I just feel like I am going on vacation and that I will be back soon. It really helps to know that I am only a 3 1/2 hour drive from here, and that I can talk to ALL of these people via Facebook. It doesn't seem like such a terrible goodbye. If I were in another country, I would be a real mess. (in comparison to know, being only a small mess).

Dad, I did not build a Rameumptum, and I am not scared to have a family ward calling anymore. At the beginning of the week, I was terrified to come back into the real world, but then someone pointed something out to me...This last year and a half was not the battle. It was the boot camp. I am about to enter the battle. This is not me coming home a war hero, this is me proving that I learned my stuff, and that I can be a real soldier in the Lord's Army. Now I have to prove what I learned, and apply it. ...And I can do that. Yesterday we taught in Young Women....and I was nervous at first, and was initially really thankful that I was NOT a YW anymore...but then I started teaching....and I loved it!!! and I was good at it!!! And I could see myself doing it in the near and distant future. I can do this. I can.

I love you all. I hope you have a great couple of days....because you will see me soon!
Sister Wilkins