Saturday, August 31, 2013

Letter #42: strength, endurance, and organizati​onal skills

Strength, endurance, and organizational skills were some of the things that Sister Stegelmeier and I fasted for yesterday, amidst a myriad of other things that our investigators need help with. 2 exchanges a week has started to catch up with us and we are realizing just how much we need the Lord's strength to be able to keep going out with as much excitement and vigor as we did the first week together. We are still working on our administrative abilities...but our weekly planning session this week was AWESOME and we are super organized going into this week. Aka...this week is going to rock!
But yeah, this week I was definitely feeling a little bit burnt-out and just really didn't feel like myself. I felt super "off" all week...which was rough, since I brought 2 sisters into my area and needed to be excited about the work and confident and such and I just wasn't feelin it. It also didn't help that this week was FULL of incredibly awkward and just really weird moments. Definitely some "mission firsts," if you will, including one of the elders' YSA investigators texting me to let me know that he has a crush on me.  And then he touched my arm yesterday at church. Umm....NOT OKAY!!!

Anyways, I got a beautiful blessing from my district leader on Saturday and Sis Steg helped me to recognize a lot of my strengths. It was super good for me and also helped me to realize just how much I've changed on my mission. Some of the things she said about my that I definitely don't think would have described me before my mission:
- Discerning needs, being sensitive to the Spirit, and in-tune with the way Heavenly Father wants me to say things
- Helping people understand their strengths
- Working with EVERYONE, whether it be tough investigators, the assistants, our sisters, ward members, etc.
- Making people feel included and helping them feel important
- Loving everyone! Having no pre-conceived judgments
- She said that I am WITHOUT GUILE! :D Like Nathanael in the Bible!
- Good at not being annoyed with people
- Evaluating the situation and then proceeding with tact & wit
- Staying focused on the situation at hand
- Holding a space for people to change--allowing them to change and grow

Don't know about you, but I definitely wouldn't have used most of those phrases to describe me a year ago!

That last one is something I've really been thinking about lately. How often do we meet someone, decide that we know exactly who they are and what they're like, and never allow them to change and become someone better? I know I've definitely been guilty of it many times in my life, but from this point forward I am stopping it. Why? Because it is a SIN. It is prideful and it completely denies the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
This gospel is ALL about change. We should always be progressively moving forward and becoming better people. I have seen so many people make drastic changes while I've been out here. Yesterday Fred, one of my favorite people I've met out here (my recent convert with all the piercings) gave his first talk in sacrament meeting. It was such a special experience for me to be able to hear him share his testimony about how much his life has changed for the better because God led us to knock on his door! Yesterday when he gave that talk, his face was completely metal-free. What would have happened if I hadn't allowed him that space to change, if I hadn't been humble enough to tap into the vision of how God saw him? Luckily, God has changed my heart enough that I was able to do that for him and for many others as well. Some of the people I've actually had to learn this with the most are actually the other missionaries I serve around. It's been so amazing to ME to watch how these elders grow and change as they are called into leadership positions and as they get the opportunities to minister to others. It's been humbling but SUPER good for me as well.

It's also been good for me because it's helped me to realize that I really need to recognize the need for change in my life, as well. For example, once upon a time I had this amazing district leader named Elder Pond. I was super disappointed when he left because I was sure I would never have another district leader like him again (in my head, I meant "as good as him" again). Thus, it wasn't surprising when I just did NOT like my next district leader. There were so many times when I'd catch myself thinking, "sigh...he's no elder pond." The poor elder tried so hard but he just never lived up to my expectations. This transfer, we got another new district leader and when I first met him, I just remember thinking, "well, here we go again...he's definitely not elder pond." But luckily this time around I was humble enough to actually give him a chance...and HE ROCKS! Yeah, it's true, he definitely is NOT Elder Pond. E. Pond is wild and out of control and half the time I wanted to punch him in the face. E. Lee is soft-spoken and is honestly a little bit afraid of me & sis steg, but he is SO humble and sensitive to the Spirit and even despite the fact that we intimidate him, he is willing to call us to repentance in his own quiet & piercing way. Oh my, he rocks. We love him so much. I would never in my life punch fact, I love this kid so much that I would totally punch out anyone ELSE who trashtalked him. And so I learned how important it is to recognize my own need for change. Yeah, I needed E. Pond as my DL three transfers ago. But now, Heavenly Father knew that I needed something else. And as I submit to His will instead of fighting against it, I'll be a lot happier. :)

Anyways, hopefully that was revelatory for you...but to be honest, it was really more for me. Emailing is one of the only chances I get to really lay out my thoughts and evaluate the things I've learned. [Journal writing is a joke, I think the last time I wrote was May 5 or something like that. No time!]

On Friday this week we took an if-then to God [saying, "God, IF we do this and this and this, THEN wilt thou please bless us with this?"] and one of the things we asked for was that not only would the elect be placed in our path, but that they would start contacting us. On Friday we were heading to a lesson over at an apt complex with a member when all of a sudden, this guy on the other side of the parking lot waved at us and started motioning us over. We went over to talk with him and found out that he had desires to change his life. After accepting baptism and while we were getting his information, all of a sudden this woman pulled up in front of us and started waving us over to her. Surprised, the member and I went up to her car and she told us that she used to take the lessons from elders in Georgia and that she had actually been baptized! She didn't know where the church was located here. So we invited her to church and got her information also! All three of us...the member and my comp and I...were just blown away by God's impeccable timing and the amazing miracles we had just witnessed! But the best part is that it didn't stop that day. The next day we were heading into an apt. complex across the street and even though it was pouring rain, two guys standing on their porch waved us over and we were able to leave a blessing with them! God really does put people in our path and He will help us to recognize them if we will just ask for His help!

Well, love you all. Life is good and it will keep gettin' better. :)
sister dougal

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