¡Buenas tardes! :)
It's been a hot and sunny Monday at the tail end of a week of rain. The circus is in town and so far I've seen a bear, a baboon, and a heap of tigers (a herd? a pack? a gaggle?). Let me explain: They transport the animals in open-air trailers, and often park by the side of the road. People can come up and look at the animals. So we got a chance to chat with the monkey for a bit. Pretty funny looking. (He wasn't too accepting of the Gospel, either. haha.) Kind of a neat little surprise.
Anyway, that was just a side note that came to mind. This week has been a really good one. We got into the groove of contacting and teaching and things have been going well. We met and have been teaching a girl named Yazmín and so far she's been progressing well. A couple other people in the works too, and then plenty of door-knocking and everything too. As for Rojer and Hipólito - we haven't been able to talk to either of them in almost two weeks now. We keep stopping by but they're never there. We're still going to keep trying, of course, and we're praying that we'll be able to reconnect and continue to teach them. In the meantime, we're working hard and always looking for new people to teach, and things are going well.
I've been getting to know my new companion this week. He's pretty cool; really relaxed and easygoing, and we have fun joking around and talking while we're walking or at home. We're starting to sync together better when we teach and that's been going well. I have no complaints with him and it's going to be really fun working with him for (at least) the next five weeks. We have a lot of fun in the house, too. Elder Jackson's still there, and we've lived in the same house now for three months and so we know each other pretty well and have a lot of fun talking and joking and reminiscing about home. :) His companion is Elder Alarcón, and he's also a really cool guy and we all get along really well. It's been good times on the homefront this week and it's looking like more are to come.
A couple neat things happened this week. First, we were walking near the river and saw some iguanas strolling along. (Try picturing iguanas strolling. Doesn't sound likely, but that's what they were doing.) So, of course, we chase after them. Remember the Sheep-Chasing Incident in Scotland, Dad? :) Well, this time it didn't last nearly so long, nor did they turn on me :) Iguanas are super fast. It was cool to watch them run because their feet-things just become a blur. After a while they dove into the water and we gave up the chase. But it was a pretty funny thing all in all and made me laugh.
Also, we discovered a giant pond in our area today. Somehow we had never made it to that particular part of the area - it's set back behind some trees and we haven't passed by there very much. But once we found it it surprised me how big it was. Kind of like a "When did they put this there?!" type of thing. We sat for a couple minutes by the side and enjoyed the peaceful surroundings. It was very relaxing. There's a little stretch of land that juts into the middle of the water and there's a house there; seems like a pretty neat place to live. I'll have to take a picture of it - it was a cool find.
Lastly, food. Today we ate pork chops. :) Very tasty and reminded me of home. And a couple days back the sister gave us chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and salad and - you'll never guess - Thousand Island and Ranch dressings. So, of course, I mixed up the traditional mashed-potatoes-and-salad-dressing that was such a favorite back at home. :) It was pretty funny and I really enjoyed the meal a lot. It was neat to eat something that so exactly reminded me of home and that isn't too common.
I'm just finishing up with the Book of Mormon - I intended to finish before Conference, but I'll probably be done tomorrow or the day after (and then I'm starting it over - so Dad (and others), if you want to read and swap insights and everything, I think it'd be pretty cool). I was reading in the Book of Ether today, and starting thinking about the lessons that we can learn from the history of the Jaredite civilization. Obviously there are many, but the one I pulled out today was about trying to find peace. We see that every time the Jaredite nation lives in righteousness, they are blessed - ofttimes incredibly so. But when wickedness gets the best of them and they fall into iniquity, those blessings are taken and the Lord curses the land and lets those bad things happen. Famine, poisonous serpents, and dozens of assassinations and murders are just a few of the tragedies that strike. Only when the people turn to the Lord and show their repentance through righteous works are their blessings restored. This happens time and time again; in fact, we can see the pattern throughout the entire Book of Mormon. I started thinking about how many times we want the Lord's help so that we can be obedient - we want Him to make everything okay and take away all the problems so that then we can start keeping the commandments. Of course the Lord is going to help us obey, but if we want to find peace in life, we're only going to be able to do so by first being obedient and following the counsel we're given. If we keep waiting for life to be perfect, well, we're going to be stuck in the same situation all our lives. But if we first make the effort to obey - and obey with exactness - we will then be able to find the peace we seek and we'll receive the blessings that the Lord wants to give us. We have to act first before expecting things to all work out.
Thinking about this reminded me of a quote from Preach My Gospel where it talks about obedience. It says that obedience is doing what's right and keeping the commandments even when we don't understand why. I really like that thought. The Jaredites saw that they were prospering and saw no reason to change their lifestyle. But the thing is, the words of the prophets will always be completed, and, as it says in Alma, wickedness never was happiness. If they had kept the commandments continually - even when they didn't understand why - they would have been okay. But they didn't, and now they're all dead. :)
I also related it to what one of the speakers said in Conference - and Dad, you mentioned it last week - that we don't obey the commandments because we think they don't matter, they don't apply to us, or they're too hard to keep (sometimes all three at once). That's probably what the Jaredites thought too, and the Nephites and the Lamanites and pretty much everybody who's come to earth. Sometimes we think the commandments don't apply to us, like the Jaredite kings who thought they were exempt; sometimes we think they're trivial and don't really matter, which includes all the "little" sins that nonetheless keep us from receiving all the blessings in store for us; and sometimes we don't think we can possibly complete the commandments, like Laman and Lemuel, who forgot that with the Lord's help all is possible.
Those three points are really profound. I've seen examples of each in my own life. For example, I was thinking about listening to music with unwholesome messages or seeing really violent movies. I could say, hey, those things don't affect me or influence me in any way; I can be immersed in the world but not commit sin. Basically what I'm saying is that I think that keeping the commandments doesn't really matter - that I can be happy without doing so. Or thinking that I can date before sixteen because I'm mature enough and that counsel only applies to people who aren't ready for dating yet; it doesn't really apply to me. Or saying that there's no way I can read the Book of Mormon every day so I'm not even going to try. None of those things are true, and yet our pride often gets in the way and we think that we can disregard the words of the prophets and still be happy. Unfortunately, just like with the Jaredites, that's just not true and unhappiness is in store if we attempt it.
The music example is one that I've definitely learned from. I'll admit I used to think that way - that the type of music I listened to didn't affect how I felt or what I did. But I saw that the opposite was true. I found that I wasn't as receptive to the Spirit and I just didn't feel as happy when I was listening to music that I shouldn't have been. I see it even more clearly on the mission - we study the scriptures for three hours every morning, oftentimes listening to hymns whilst so doing, and then later in the day I hear a song from somebody's house or radio that isn't appropriate and I just cringe and don't feel as open to the Spirit. Or sometimes I hear the occasional swear word in English and it hits me pretty hard. And those things are without me even looking for them - how much more is the effect when I choose to listen to the music or hear the words spoken.
What I realized from all this is how essential humility is for our happiness. In the family letter that Lisa sent me, Ben wrote, "Remember that humility is the key to success." I've thought about that a lot and realized how important that concept is. Humility keeps us on the strait and narrow. Humility keeps us open to the Spirit. Humility keeps us happy.
Thus concludes my sermon for today. (I think the sermon was a big hit. Let's celebrate... haha.) I feel like I kind of rambled on a lot, but hopefully it made some sense and was applicable in some way. It's been on my mind a lot lately and I know that humility and strict obedience will bring many blessings.
Okay, now for family time. :)
Gabbie!: Man, that was a pretty fun letter! I laughed that you told it to Miranda while cleaning the muck off Nikka. I could picture the scene very well. Jumping on the tramp sounds like a lot of fun. Does Reagan still run away if someone tries to jump on the tramp with him? All the hanging out with Lauren sounds fun, and so does going to the Mayan. You went to a restaurant called the Mayan and I taught a Mayan about the Gospel :) haha. All the games outside all the rest of the things you did make it sound like you had a pretty fun Spring Break! Atta girl, Gabs! :) I am indeed having SO much fun, Gabs, and I hope you are too! :) Hope you have a great week! Thanks for writing such an interesting letter! I love you! :)
Miranda!: What a letter! Adolescent! What I mean is that your letter sounded a lot like you, and like a teenage girl, though not in a bad way. (What, there's a bad way?) More for some of the slang you used. Or something like that. Anyway. :) Sounds like you had quite the good week. Full of tv shows and movies, so you're off to a good start. :) Haha just kidding. It's cool that you're such good friends with Stephanie. What's she up to lately, anyway? What are the rest of the cousins doing? Speaking of jewelry shopping there are some pretty cool things around here - not just jewelry but carvings and clothes and figurines and stuff. I want to find something for everybody and send them home at some point. Anything in particular you'd like? This might not be for months, but if you have any suggestions, fire away. That goes for everyone else too. I also really liked the talk by President Monson and his story really touched me. I'm eager to hear your answer next week about your favorite talk. :) Sounds cool about the creative project.
Chicken butt was pretty funny - I hadn't thought about that in a while. remember Chicken Salad Soup? :) Sounds like a crazy injury on the foot. Shoes, I would suggest, are very important - as is healing. :) The whole ending of your letter was pretty funny. Sounds like things are going really well. Keep up the good work, do your homework, read the scriptures, listen to Mom and Dad, eat your vegetables... all those good things as an older brother I'm obligated to say. :) They're all true though, and they all work. Keep being an awesome sister. I hope you have a great week. I love you! :)
Mom!: Hey! Sounds like it's been a good week. The baptism was really cool and we watched Conference in the chapel (which is also the Stake Center) - I don't have a picture of Maritza at the baptism yet, but I'll get it and send it soon. Spring Break sounds like it was both busy and relaxing and a lot of fun. I'm glad everyone had a good time and enjoyed the break. It was funny to hear about Reagan and cool to see the picture of him and Miranda. Also funny to see the picture of Nikka and Lucy. Looks like Nikka's eating her head. :) It's always cool to hear from your point of view how everyone in the family is doing from your point of view - everybody tells me what's been going on, but you seem to have a different perspective on the way things are going and it's interesting to read your insights. Not that you contradict what they say - just that it's evident that it's coming from a motherly perspective. You always make it sound, without necessarily saying it, like you're proud of everyone for how they're doing, and that in a way makes me proud of them too. It's a pretty neat thing. I hope the weather's warming up a bit and that you're getting the chance to work outside a little more. As for the Mother's Day phone call - I'm pretty sure we'll do it the same way we did for Christmas, but I'm not positive. I'll get things figured out and let you know well in advance so that it goes off without a hitch. I'm really excited for it, even though it's a little ways off. Ward conference sounds cool, home sounds cool, the family sounds cool... how's your side of the family doing? I hear from Lisa and Laura fairly frequently, and John's family wrote me last week - it sounds like Daniel's turning out pretty awesome. He always has inspiring and spiritual things to say. All of them do, in fact, and it's been really neat to hear from them. How are Grandma and Grandpa? Thanks for always writing, Mom, and for everything you do. I hope this week is a wonderful one and that Heavenly Father's blessings are poured out even more abundantly. I love you very much! :)
Dad!: Once again I waxed verbose and am left with but a few minutes to write. Everything you said about ward conference sounds awesome. I really liked hearing about the Bishop's story. That was a very powerful message. Oh, and thanks for the conference talks - I'm printing them off now and they'll really come in handy. "You know what you need to become - so behave like it" - I like that quote a lot too. Kind of like the "be who you say you are" we've talked about before. As for transfers - I'm guessing that I'll go elsewhere at the end of this one, but anything could happen. If in the next transfer I stay in Tabasco somewhere, I'll be in the Villahermosa mission. If I go to Chiapas, I'll be in the Tuxtla Gutierrez mission. So, either way, we'll know in five weeks. Pretty exciting! Really awesome that you're going to the temple so often and having that out-loud morning prayer - I've found out how powerful praying out loud is. Cool about the prayer roll experience and everything; I can only imagine how that must feel to see us growing up and doing relatively well. :) I'll have to reply more to what you wrote next week - but you know how it is. Thanks a ton for always writing and teaching me so much and being such a constant support for me. I love reading the emails. Thanks for everything, Dad. Have a great week. I love you very much.
Well, everyone, I hope you have a great week. Thanks for all the love and prayers. The work is going well and I'm having a blast. More next week!