(There's a bit of Swahili for your week. "Hello! How are you?" Also, "hakuna matata" is also in Swahili and it really does mean "don't worry!" Niiiiice.)
First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUSTIN! 19. Woot! 19 was a fantastic age. I'm sure your experience of 19 will be a bit different than mine seeing as you'll be hangin out in Guatemala....hopefully you're getting excited! That will certainly be an experience like no other!
Also, before I forget, could you look into sending me my absentee ballot? I would like to do my duty as a US citizen and vote, but unless that ballot gets to me really fast it's not going to happen. Like really fast.
Well, the weeks certainly are flying by! I really do feel like I was just sitting here emailing you yesterday. A few weeks ago, I would have definitely been grateful for that...that first week out here was sooo long, I despaired about ever reaching 18 months! But I had a little epiphany in the shower this last week that was partly prompted by President Uchtdorf's talk in conference. I've always been a person who suffers from the "happiness is just around the corner syndrome." I feel like truly enjoying the present is something I've struggled with for a looong time, so Pres Uchtdorf's talk really hit home. He talked about how we need to focus on enjoying the journey instead of always racing ahead towards the finish line. He used an analogy that I loved: "Do we listen to beautiful music waiting for the final note to fade before we allow ourselves to truly enjoy it? No. We listen and connect to the variations of melody, rhythm, and harmony throughout the composition." I realized that I had been stuck in this mindset of, "Wow, I can't wait until I go home in 18 months! That will be so great!" but I realized that was silly. I didn't come on a mission just so that I could go home 18 months later. I need to focus on loving every minute as it happens! One of my mission scriptures talks about being content no matter what state I am in...I realized that I shouldn't just focus on being content, I really need to focus on loving everything and truly enjoying myself! But anyways, a few days later I was in the shower and I was thinking about my new resolution to love every minute of my mission instead of focusing on the end result. And I had the thought that a mission is something I've waited for my entire life. Serving a mission has always been one of my life-long dreams. And now that it's finally here, was I really just going to sit around and hope that the time went by faster! No way! I only have 18 months out here and I'm literally "living my dream." I better enjoy every second of it! Also, I was thinking about how a lot of missionaries get home and really miss their missions because all of a sudden they feel like they have no purpose and it's really hard for them to jump back into life. I realized that when I get home, I'm not going to have a lot of life plans, esp. since I already finished school. Chances are I won't have a single dating prospects or job opportunity right away, and so to be honest, that first little while after I get home might very well suck. So why on earth should I look forward to that when I have all these amazing things happening right now?!?!
Yup. Epiphany. Lucky thing I have a sense of humor and a good attitude, because those are definitely things you need on a mission. But I really am loving life. I've gotten to the point where people slamming doors in my face doesn't even really bother me that much. I just think it's funny. (Although I was slightly chastised by my scripture study yesterday where I realized that instead of thinking it's funny, I should sorrow for these people because their eternal salvation is at stake...whoooops)
Anyways, some highlights from last week include:
--We're teaching a (slightly ghetto) black family, which is hard to find in this part of the mission. There are all these cute little black girls with legit black names like "Latoya" and "Koolaidria" and "Obamaniqua" (haha...anyone get the reference? anyoneeee? Candy will know what I'm talkin bout) and whenever we're in the neighborhood they all come out on their bikes and follow us around and get so excited to see us. Super fun.
--We're teaching a Jewish woman named Stella who actually has no idea what Jews or Christians believe (she's Jewish by birth and that's about it). We're really starting from scratch with her but she gets so excited to see us and she's really excited to learn about Jesus Christ. On Thursday we visited with her and we were there for 2.5 hours. Holy cow. To be honest, I'm not sure what she got out of the lesson...but at least she now understands that it was Moses and not Noah who parted the red sea and that the plagues of Egypt had nothing to do with Noah. She was shocked to find out that the Jews crucified Jesus and she just kept wanting to talk about Elijah. But she immediately accepts whatever we tell her because she really has no knowledge of anything. We talked a little bit about Joseph Smith and I'm pretty sure she thinks that all Christians believe in him. Hmm.... So obviously we have quite a bit of work to do with her. But she's awesome. She invited us to go with her to synagogue and we're super excited about that.
--Helping out at the relief society Super Saturday activity on Saturday and learning that I can't sew using a machine. At all. But now I know how to wind a bobbin and that's quite a bit of progress for me.
--Sis. Spjut and I and the 2 elders in our ward all sang a musical number on Sunday. For the rest of the day people kept coming up and telling us how wonderful it was, so I guess it went pretty well.
--We had our first art lesson with Jane! She is the sweetest thing and she told us how she "needs" us girls to bring a little bit of light into our life. She met with the missionaries back when she was a teenager and those are some of her fondest memories...so she's definitely been prepared. We'll see what happens with her. Even after only one lesson, I'm already WAYYY better at drawing than I was a week ago. Watch out, because I'm going to be a fairly proficient artist when I come home. ;)
But one of the coolest things was spending time with the Hoadly family last night. They are a family that wasn't really active in the church for a lot of years. The heartbreaking this is that the mom, who is only in her early 30s, is dying. I really don't think she has a lot of time left and she told us that she's feeling weaker and weaker every day. Their whole family has been baptized except for her son, since he wasn't old enough when the rest of the family was baptized, and she really wants him to be baptized before she dies. Last night he finally agreed to get baptized and so we started teaching him and it was awesome. His baptism is scheduled for this weekend. I've really come to love this family and it is so hard to watch Tanya, this beautiful and spirited young mother, as she struggles to keep her family together. It is sad but I feel so blessed to get to be a part of their family at this time. I am literally helping fulfill her dying wish by teaching Danny (her son) and getting him baptized. Last night as we were leaving their apartment I was just overjoyed! I had the thought, "I would leave behind a boy ANY day for experiences like this." We are really being tools in the Lord's hands to help save this struggling family. It's an amazing feeling and there really is nothing that quite compares to it. For all of you girlies who are trying to make the decision about whether or not you're going to serve a mission, I just want to tell you that it's a decision you won't regret. I've only been in Florida for a month and I already recognize that these 18 months will probably be some of the best-spent months of my life. A mission wasn't at all what I expected it would be, but it's been awesome so far. The first week you'll probably want to go home....but the blessings come very quickly and the Lord really does strengthen you so that you can deal with any challenges you'll face. And just being with the Hoadlys last night made me realize how this endeavor is totally worth all the mosquito bites and all the awkward moments and all the appointments that fall through and dealing with the fact that Travis might not be around when I get home.
Okayyyy well that's probably good for now. Love you all!