Good afternoon from windy D'Iberville! It's still basically mid-fall here. I'm slightly too warm in my quarter-length-sleeve shirt. I was barely able to handle wearing tights to church yesterday. I think I'm trying to force everything around me to be winter. It's not working.
Did y'all have a good Thanksgiving? Did you eat a ton of food? I hope so. Sister Greenhalgh and I were sick for Thanksgiving, but that just made the dinner appointments all the more enjoyable. It also made for some hilarious journal entries, as well as some nice photo op's with our bottle of Martinelli's at the end of the day. No worries, everyone. We're all better now.
Holidays are super fun as a missionary -- especially Christmas time! We are sliding into my favorite part of the year. The moment Thanksgiving passed, everyone's Christmas trees sprouted, lights twinkled on every building we saw, wreathes now hang from church doors -- everything is Christmas and joy in the south!
This also means the Church is launching their Christmas initiative, which is really why I like being a missionary this time of year. If you haven't seen it yet, go to Mormon.org and find yourself the Light the World videos. You see, everyday of December of 2016 will have its own advent-style video. Each video comes with a challenge to help you serve others and be a better disciple of Jesus Christ. I encourage all of you to do this, and don't forget to kick off December with a worldwide day of service.
This week has been a little wonky, what with us being sick and all. Even so, we still found ways to do our work. The Lord understands circumstances that we cannot control and fills in all the gaps we can't. When things get hard, Heavenly Father has a funny way of showing us tender mercies.
On Saturday, Sister Greenhalgh and I were getting ready for the day as usual. We'd had a slow morning, and we were scratching our heads for things to do throughout the day. Back-up plans were made, and ideas were there, but there was always the sinking feeling of everything falling through and us being left with, "What now?"
Knowing this, God prompted one of our lovely members to text us and tell us that she'd signed up to feed us. We were thrilled! But, what made this text even better was that she ended it with, "And help me put up Christmas decorations!"
We sat down at this lovely woman's house for Thanksgiving leftovers (a true tender mercy) and Christmas decorations. Her home was alight with running children and gentle Christmas carols. She hardly had time to sit down and eat as she was getting up and gathering her little ones, bringing them to the table and having them participate in our conversations.
There are ups and downs to serving in every ward. Every area has its own disadvantages. As I've served in a military ward for so long, I've had the opportunity to watch families move in, and move out -- I've also watched families move in, and their husbands and fathers be sent away to Afghanistan, or Iraq, or wherever the military chooses to take them. And such was the case with this little family.
An air of oddity was had as we pulled out the Christmas decorations. We talked about traditions and gospel stories as each ornament was hung. It reminded me of my Christmas tree at home; ornaments from my childhood, falling apart and almost unrecognizable; little, mismatched sparkling orbs missing their hooks hung in odd places; one side of the tree rather dramatically decorated while the other side is left forgotten and bare due to the height of most of the children. Each child was able to hang their own ornament, and they grinned proudly as they walked to grab another one. And yet, it felt as though something was missing.
We gathered on the couch. Sister Greenhalgh and I prepared to share a message, and it morphed into a showing of the Church's Christmas videos. Each one brought the Spirit in almost immediately. The children fell still and silent, and their mother took this opportunity to pull out a small book of Christmas devotionals, complete with a box of hand-painted ornaments to go along with it.
The first one was about the star that led the shepherds and wise men to the manger where our Savior was born. We took turns explaining and reading scriptures, talking about the story, and watching the Church's Bible video made for it.
There is a special Spirit in a member's home where those that live there are striving to invite Christ into all that they do. And I felt it even stronger as this mother began to bear her testimony on our Savior and His love.
"This Christmas will be different," she said. "Daddy won't be here, and that will be hard. But, think of Jesus Christ when you're sad or upset. He will help you and strengthen you; He will lift you and encourage you; He will make you feel peaceful and happy. And remember, there's always next year."
I cannot truly explain to you the sweet, tender Spirit that fell over the room as this mother explained a simple truth of the Atonement to her children. My heart and chest were so full of gratitude to have been able to witness this.
Brothers and sisters, the Atonement is so real. Even for small children whose father has been deployed -- the Atonement is for everyone.
I was led to Luke 22 this week, where Jesus Christ is preparing Himself to be betrayed by His beloved disciple and apostle, Judas Iscariot. The apostles did not understand nor comprehend exactly what was going to become of their beloved Savior. They did not understand the kind of agony that was going to befall Him, and the kind of suffering that He was going to endure for their and their enemies' sake.
"But I have prayed for thee," He told the apostles, "that thy faith fail not; and when you art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
Christ has prayed for you. He has had you in His thoughts since before you were born. He knew you, and He continues to know you. He has not forgotten you.
We read in Luke 22:
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.
And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (41-44)
Have you ever felt alone, brothers and sisters?
Has the darkness ever prevailed against you? Has the adversary pulled a shade over you, blinding you from the light everyone tells you is there?
Do you feel abandoned? Without hope?
Do you know that Christ has felt this, too?
Jesus Christ accomplished the greatest feat in human history. He took upon Himself every single pain, every single affliction, and every single temptation so that He would know how to help you (Alma 7:11).
He wants to help you, brothers and sisters. He has suffered agony and confusion beyond our mortal comprehension. Even in your darkest moments, there is someone who has endured that darkness for you -- even deeper darkness than that. He has been there, and He wants to take you out of there. Because He was perfect and took Himself out of there, He is able to lift you when you cannot lift yourself.
And you are worthy of that.
Do not think you are not worthy to return to the kingdom of God. Feelings of unworthiness are not of God; He wants all of us back, and the only way to do that is to accept Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
Remember Him this season.
And have a good week, okay?
|That moment when you go to Sephora and use the red lipstick. (We look great)|
| The TiWi was freaking out. You okay, Tiwi? You need some Sprite?|
|check out the sunset! :D|
|True Christianity is when the Methodist guy lets the Mormon missionary pick and eat his oranges when they knock on his door|
|Happy sick Thanksgiving! :D|