Good afternoon everyone!
It's been a great day and week and I'm excited to be able to write a little bit about them. Time is flying by and I'm being incredibly blessed. I couldn't think of a better place to be right now (though somewhere slightly colder would be nice - ha) and I'm truly having the time of my life. These 288 days (thanks for the count, Mom!) have been such an incredible experience for me, and I'm happy to know that I still have plenty of time left as a missionary - though it's going much faster than I would like.
For me, this past week has been one of setting new goals and taking the decision to push myself even harder. I think I've hit another one of those points where the Lord expands my vision a little more and I see the areas where I can do better and the ways I can improve - what we've talked about before, Dad, and how life is full of those moments (assuming we continue to progress). I read a quote that a member has in her home that talks about how when you make a decision or choose a course in life, you should go for it with all your heart and forget about the other paths you might have taken. Letting your mind turn back to a former lifestyle or to other possibilities will only distract from the task at hand and will draw your thoughts away from where they need to be. It reminds me of Elder Holland's talk in the Liahona (that's Ensign to you) a couple months back; he talked about how the sin of Lot's wife was looking back longingly at her former life - in her heart, she wanted to go back there and continue living that lifestyle, and that was at least part of the sin she committed. As missionaries, we're expected to have our... man, I forgot the wording of D&C 4 in English, but in Spanish it's "mira puesta únicamente en la gloria de Dios." Eye fixed solely on the glory of God? Something like that, I think. That's why we limit our contact with the world as much as we can - to keep ourselves focused completely on the task at hand. I think as members in general this is a good concept to put into practice; we too must be centered in the Gospel and we shouldn't look back longingly at former habits or ways of living that weren't as righteous as those we have now. Anyway, Elder Tanner and I have been talking a lot about how we really want to push ourselves, work as hard as we can, and make this transfer something amazing. This is going to require lots of concentration, prayer, and effort, but it will definitely be worth it. So, I've set new goals for myself: more diligent studying, more fervent prayer, more efficient and focusing work, talking to everyone I meet, speaking with power and authority, being perfectly obedient. Those kinds of "small" things.:) But it's a course I really feel will help me - trying to be just a little bit better. I know I'll see the blessings as I work my hardest and rely on the Lord to make up for my imperfections.
The work is going pretty well. Elder Tanner and I work really well together and have a lot of fun. He has a very strong testimony of the Gospel. We've become good friends and have a lot of fun together. We're still working with a couple people I've mentioned - Saira, Dustin Montana (yes, that's his real name, even though he's Venezuelan - kind of weird, huh? I'll have to ask him about Hannah Montana though. haha), and a few others. We've found a couple families who seem interested, and we knock a lot of doors and stop people in the street pretty often, and little by little we find the people who are ready for the restored Gospel and we'll see the fruits of our labors. This coming week should be a successful one and I'm looking forward to it.
I thought I'd write a little bit more about the food here. Today we ate spinach-stuffed chicken breasts with cole slaw and black beans. It was really good. I don't think I'd ever eaten much spinach before the mission - but everyone always talks about how it doesn't taste good, so I think that's what I expected, but I've found that I really like it. Go figure. I've also overcome the dislike of Jello - now I look forward to it whenever they give it to us. Weird, huh? :) I still don't like flan very much (remember Chile, Dad? haha), but I'm getting used to it. I've mentioned, I think, that we drink a lot of juice. Most of the time it's actually fruit water rather than juice. They throw chunks of fruit into a pitcher, fill it with water, and blend it up. Sounds kind of strange - like it'd be watered down or something - but it actually tastes really good and helps with thirst a lot. The only fruit I don't really like is papaya. I've learned to love mangos, and of course there are all the classics like pineapple, grape, strawberry, orange, etc. They have a couple fruits and drinks here that I'd never heard of in the States - guayaba, tamarindo, jamaica, and maracuyá. They all taste really cool, and they sell packets of drink mix so I make them a lot at night in the house. Do any of those have US counterparts?
Speaking of that - I've been thinking that it would be cool to buy some presents on my mission. On the bridge there's this guy who makes backpacks out of turtle shells. They're really cool and only cost around 20 dollars. It would look really cool hanging in your office, Dad... just a thought! :) I'll keep my eyes open for cool things. Oh, and another thing that just came to mind - in the June Liahona (May still hasn't come yet) there's a "letter from the readers" thing (might be in the New Era, actually) and one of them is from none other than Andrew, my old college roommate. (Wow. I have old college roommates. That makes me sound a whole lot older.) I was kind of surprised to see his picture when I opened it up. Kind of a cool thing.
In my scripture study I'm still reading Nephi's vision and conversation with the angel - I'm in 1 Nephi 14. I think it's really interesting how he depicts the church of the devil - I referenced it to Revelations and there's some pretty cool imagery that drives home how destructive Satan's traps and lies are for us. Three key points that Nephi learns about are pride, filthiness and lust - three pretty key points that the devil hits us with. But, of course, Nephi also sees the promises the Lord has made us - the colonization of America, the Revolution, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, etc. It's really cool to see this pattern of how the Lord warns us of danger, promises us blessings, and then teaches us how to be righteous and receive them. I love reading the scriptures every day and they teach me so much. I really recommend it for everyone - it's a great way to build up spiritual strength against temptation and find peace and happiness even in rough times.
Okay, now for some responses to this week's letter.
Gabbie: No, Elder Alarcón didn't actually eat the mouse - but the picture was pretty funny, huh? And yeah, that's the size of the frog, actual size compared to the sink and everything. It's super small. I named him rana (frog in Spanish) right before I kicked him out of the bathroom - I haven't seen him since. Uh-oh... I bet you're really excited that school's out! Man - elementary school is over! Cool! And that's cool that you're going to be doing swim team - you have to tell me how it goes! I miss swimming, actually. And getting rained on isn't quite the same thing. :) Also, I bet you're super excited for Disneyland - I forgot (or maybe you never said), but how long are you going to be there? Have an awesome trip and go on lots of rollercoasters for me! :) Are you liking Beehives so far? Sounds like you had a good time at Brother Payne's and playing with their dog. Well, Gabbie, as always I love hearing from you every week. I'm a little short on time but I'll write more next week. Have a great week and keep being such a cool little kid. Enjoy your summer vacation! I love you very much! :)
Miranda: Yeah, I was one of those stupid smart kids that mess up the grade curve for you... but thanks for being so forgiving. ha - just kidding :) I remember one in precal - he gave us a mini-test, but told us he would only put it on our grade if it helped us. I already had an A so I just didn't bother taking the test seriously - I napped for most of it. Well, he didn't put it on third term, but decided to put in in for fourth term - so I started out with an F. Thankfully, he let me redo it and I ended up getting a good score - just kinda funny though, and I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere :). Yeah, I do remember the whole piano duet thing, but had completely forgotten about it. Haha. Too bad our plan didn't work out, huh? Your b-day meal sounded pretty cool. Speaking of chicken hearts - try eating a chicken foot. There's meat inside, but you kind of have to suck it out... yeah, it's pretty gross. I'll leave it at that. As for the investigators and if you can do anything to help... well, that's a good question. I'll think about it and let you know next week, okay? Thanks for writing and for being a great sister. Have fun this week, be nice to the family, eat your vegetables... all those good things. :) I love you! :)
Mom: Yes, the mouse was in our house. I don't think it's due to a lack of hygiene, because we keep the place pretty clean - I think it's mostly just because we're in southern Mexico. Haha. But we got rid of it and haven't seen any more since. Elder Tanner and I have indeed been getting along really well and I think we'll end up being good friends after the mission - he'll be going to BYU, for one thing. His siblings served in Brazil (two of them), Italy, and his sister in Geneva, Switzerland. Cool, huh? He has a picture with all of them together with scarves saying the name of their missions. It was really neat seeing Elder Christiansen - he has been out for about 16 months and is doing well. The hammock is actually really comfortable - I've been sleeping really well lately. It's pretty fun. :) Lisa writes me pretty often and says that she's been studying parts of Preach My Gospel - I'd recommend it; it's really helpful just for members in general to learn more and develop more Christlike attributes. It's always cool to hear about how everyone in the family's doing and all the things you've been up to.Thanks for all the support and love, Mom. Have a great week. I love you very much! :)
Dad: To start off with, another interesting things - one of the drinks they give us every so often is agua de betabel (beets). Weird, huh? I came to like beets back in Tuxtla, and now I like beet water. (What a bird! ha) I hadn't heard about the hurricane, and so far no flooding - but three years back Villahermosa got hit hard, pretty crazy stuff. Most houses still have the watermarks. I've getting used to the weather - it's still really hot and humid, but it just doesn't surprise me anymore. "I go outside and I start to rain," says my companion, and it's true. Haha. Oh well. I laughed too about Orson Scott Card's response to you, especially given that it's one of those MAKE-BELIEVE stories. Hah. Go figure. Cool stuff about singing with Reagan - I laughed about the brainwashing thing, but hey, it might just work. (That idea might just be crazy enough... to get us all killed! Ask Miranda or Gabs where that's from.) Cool about Heather Johnson's farewell, say hi to the Wilsons for me. I liked what you said about not judging other people, and how the Savior didn't go around judging people, but loving them. I like that image. This week my MTC teacher wrote me, and quoted a scripture in Alma (chapter 26, I think), where it talks about how the priests, after teaching the people, went out to work because they weren't any better than the congregation. Kind of a neat image and a good thing to remember when preaching the Gospel and teaching others. It's crazy to think about where I was a year ago and how fast time has gone. I'm doing really, really well. Healthy, happy, and enjoying life very much. I couldn't ask for better. :) Thanks for all the thoughts, the love and prayers and support and for making me laugh. Have a great week, Dad. I love you!
Thanks again, everyone, and remember that I love you all very much. The Church is true and Jesus Christ is our Savior. Read about Him, study His life, and try to be like Him - each day just a little bit more. Have a great week!