Monday, January 27, 2014

Bag Pipes? Cathedrals? Moscow? I am in Europe

So, I got a new companion! Elder Smith. He is from Payson, UT, and he plays the bag pipes. Like a boss. I have heard him play Praise to the Man, and he plays Amazing Grace. I'm done. He is too cool.

OK, now for all the pictures.

So, the Cole family is brilliant. We have a good time.
This is what happens at their house.  

I love missionaries. 

Raina and Laila! These girls are the best. 

No longer companions with Elder Wilcock...

Now I'm with Elder Smith!!

Margaret Thatcher was dying, so we cremated her. RIP 

The beloved Moscow Group! Marvel at our beauty. These members are the best.

St Mary's. This church is BEAUTIFUL. The pastor invited us for a tour, it's gorgeous. 

Who says missionaries can't eat healthy?? (homemade fries are healthier, right??)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Change is beautiful

So the other day I stumbled across a quote from Ben Carraway, who served here in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Mission. He stated, "change is beautiful."

As I was thinking about that it reminded me of high school yearbooks and the common expression, "never change." I remember reading it over and over again in my yearbook, which I didn't really appreciate. Considering the amount of changes I had undergone throughout my high school career, I felt that I had changed and grown a lot, and thus desired more growth and change. The last thing I wanted was to stop changing. Which led to me wonder, what does it mean to change? I feel that often as people change, the result is negative. They digress, or change for the worse, which has resulted in a negative outlook on change and why friends encouraged me to never change.

Yet, change can be beautiful. Change can be miraculous and powerful and inspiring. Consider the conversions of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon, or Paul from the New Testament. Men who underwent great change, where the result was wonderful and the impact tremendous. There are countless examples of people who changed, who progressed, and who we cheer on. Therefore, as children of God, I believe the desire to progress is instilled in each of us. Since the reason we came to this earth was to progress, to obtain a physical body and progress further than we were previously able. Progression is change.

However we can't do it alone, which is why our loving Heavenly Father provided a way for us to change. "He sent His Son to die for us, and rise with living breath" (Children's Songbook: He Sent His Son). Through Jesus Christ, our Savior, we can change, we can repent, and we can progress. We can grow, and excel, and learn. I am so grateful that I can rely on Him every day to become better. That every day I can experience a change of heart, and every day I can feel His love working in me to create something better than I was before. We were never destined to fail, which is why we can change; so we can succeed, and overcome. Whatever we're going through, He is always there and He is always reaching out for us. He is love and that's real, I know it. I know it because I have experienced it; every ounce of my creation and existence testifies that God is love.

Change is beautiful, and change is real. So change, and never stop changing.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dancing during church?

So, this week the Moscow group met in our first, somewhat permanent, place! Arabesque Dance Studio. The desire to dance was way stronger than I thought it would be, I had a hard time staying focused. I couldn't look at the mirrors because I was worried I would start dancing without thinking about it. So, needless to say, this is going to be a good time.

Don't be fooled by the lack of clouds. It was in the negatives. I was cold.

Helped these guys move to Iowa this week! Going to miss them.

The room we had Sacrament meeting in (after we put it back together)

Where we had Sunday School and Priesthood.

Elder Wilcock, Elder Jorgensen, and I. They are short. I am not that tall. 

Scranton District! My loves.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Have we not great reason to rejoice?

I remember very clearly an experience that I had near the beginning of my mission. We were riding the bus back to our apartment from Atlantic City, and I was really upset. I was frustrated, angry, and becoming discouraged. While I was sitting on the bus, wallowing in my misery, a very clear question came into my mind: "Why are you unhappy?" Due to the mood that I was in, I felt more than prepared to list off a slew of reasons to justify my attitude. However, as I began to ponder on that question, I couldn't create ANY reasonable answer to rationalize my feelings. I was in shock! Soon my feelings of discontent started to melt away as I began to realize all of the reasons that I had to be happy; all of the blessings, miracles, and tender mercies that the Lord had, was, and would continue to bless me with. It was a miraculous display of Heavenly Father's love for me and greatly impacted the way I view happiness and the sources of happiness.

We can find similar examples in the scriptures. While Ammon and his brethren were serving among the Lamanites they were "cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon [their] cheeks... stone, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison" (Alma 26:29). Yet, even with all these trials, even though they had "suffered all manner of afflictions," Ammon still found happiness (Alma 26:30). Despite all these things, he asked his brethren, "have we not great reason to rejoice?" (Alma 26:13). He goes on the glory in the Lord and is overcome because his joy is so great.

We can learn too from Nephi. After the death of his father Nephi also found himself "in the valley of sorrow" and realized that his happiness came from righteous living (2 Ne. 4:26). As he "did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things," he "lived after the manner of happiness" (2 Ne. 5:10, 27). Nephi recognized as well that obedience to the Lord brings happiness.

Just as Ammon and Nephi, we can find true joy, true happiness, through obedience to the restored gospel. When we are living righteously, we can wonder like Ammon, "have we not great reason to rejoice?" Likewise, breaking the commandments can cause our souls to grieve because of our iniquities (see 2 Ne. 4:17). Since "wickedness never was happiness," conversely righteousness has always been happiness (Alma 41:10). I know that as we keep the commandments, as we do everything we can to live the gospel, that God will bless us with the ability to find the fullest joy in this life.

That doesn't mean that this life will be easy, we were sent here to be tested, to learn, and to grow. However, with God hope is not lost. Through Christ life cannot only be fulfilling, it can be joyous.

"Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever." (Alma 26:16)