Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lord You Have My Heart

One of my favorite songs right now; It really voices my feelings.  Especially because I am going into my mission hoping to develop an even deeper relationship with my Savior than the one I have already tried to so hard to cultivate. My favorite lines from the song go like this “Lord you have my heart and I will search for yours. Jesus take my life and lead me on.” I have been through a lot in my life but especially the past year and I have tackled the healing process a day at a time. However, no matter how hard things got I swore to myself that I would never turn my back on God. No matter how badly I hurt or how angry I was at what was happening I was not going to be mad at God. My Savior has become my dearest friend. I read a book recently called “I loved Jesus in the Night”. It’s a biography about Mother Teresa and she talked about how she lived like Jesus was her spouse, living only to please Him and make Him comfortable inside her heart. Her and I are kindred spirits in that goal. A lot of what she said is how I feel exactly 

What I have learned most from the hard year though is that God loves me. He loves me because no matter where He asked me to go, no matter how deep the despair or how dark the night, He was with me. Even when I tried to hide my pain from my roommates or my family I could not hide it from Him and I found it oddly comforting. When I got angry I did not direct towards the individual who was the source of my pain, instead I turned it towards my Heavenly Father, and He in turn helped me to know His Son better. He brought to my knees and then to the scriptures. Teaching me of  a man of sorrows that was acquainted with grief. In the night I came to know and love the Redeemer of the world. I came to truly understand that I am His as long as I am willing to make a place In my heart for Him to stay.

With a call to serve a mission I have a chance to demonstrate my thanks for His companionship and His unending understanding and mercy. I have offered prayers of gratitude on numerous occasions but I never felt I could adequately voice the gratitude I felt in my heart. He had walked with me through the valley of the shadow of death and he taught me to fear no evil. He helped me to know that goodness and mercy would follow all of my days (ref. Psalm 23). I know that my mission will heal me. It is the last step I need to take to truly feel forgiven. The final push to the disciple that I want to be; I have sought every day for a long time to be the kind of disciple that could look at the face of the Master with pleasure, knowing that I had been faithful in all the things He had commanded me to do. I am not there yet. I know, with my Savior at my side, someday I will be; but not yet and for now I just have to walking.

There are moments that ignite a glimmer of hope that I am doing the right things and living the right way. One of those moments came when I was talking with a friend. We were talking about some of the hard things I had experienced and he asked “Haley, do you love our Savior.” Without even thinking the words kind of slipped out as tears filled my eyes “I love him so much.” Then he smiled, like he knew something I didn't and said  “Its little wonder you want to specialize in New Testament studies.” In that moment I felt validated. I felt like all the efforts, all my prayers and all the sleepless night I spent worrying about my progress and whether He was pleased with me felt like they were not for nothing.

I echo those words now. I love my Savior so much. He is the friend I've always looked for, the One that I can confide in. Who is always ready to listen He loves me so much that He cuts me down to help me grow and after I have spent a long night in the dark I know that it is only to turn me into a beautiful and magnificent butterfly. Lord you have my heart; I only pray that I can find yours. May God watch over you in your darkest hours and always, until you read again. 

And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. (Isaiah 58:11)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Passports, Plantains, and a Parable

Life since coming home has been pretty uneventful. I have spent a lot of time studying Preach My Gospel. Basically I go through each chapter with a pen, underline what jumps out at me and take notes of things that strike me as I read. I also do the scripture studies. I am trying to knock out a chapter a week though some chapters take me longer than others. I am saving Chapter 3 (which has all the lessons in it) as the last chapter I study so that its fresh in my mind when I enter the MTC and start learning everything in Spanish. In regards to my mission that is definitely what I am most apprehensive about is teaching everything in Spanish. I have been doing some studying and I try to think of how I would say things in Spanish. I already know how to say “somos misioneras de la iglesia de Jesucristo de los santos de los ultimos dias”* which will be handy in giving out pass along cards and what not.

Now to make sense of my rather interesting. All the of the afore mentioned items are things that I have been thinking about lately. I got my passport last week and the government spelled my name wrong. According to my passport my name is “Huley” which kind of baffles me. I sent in a photo copy of my license, a birth certificate and tons of paperwork all with my name spelled correctly. Obviously someone was ready to go home for Christmas because I just can’t see how that could have happened. Anyway, I got it sent back and hopefully it will come in the next few weeks. I’m waiting for my FBI Clearance and after that comes I have to send it back to the government to get an aposille. When it comes back to me from there I have send every thing into Church Headquarters and this all has to happen before March 7th or I might not going ot Guatemala on April 3rd. Cross your fingers and pray for me!

Now on to plantains. I’ve been trying to talk to a lot of people that served in Panama. They have all told me that with every meal you eat fried plantains. So much for wanting to eat healthier in a place that is abundant with every fruit you could possible think of. I skyped with one of the girls that will be serving about the same time as me and we both agreed we would just eat slow so that we wouldn’t feel obligated to eat tons. Its going to be incredibly hot year around and super humid for about half the year so I personally think we won’t have huge issues with gaining weight because we’ll just sweat it off but we’ll see. I am super excited for the new food I am going to try and cannot wait for all the experiences I will have. It makes me think of a great quote I heard in church today from an RM who just got back from serving his mission in Brazil a week ago. He said:

“When you decide to serve a mission you do not give two years the Lord. The Lord gives those two years to you. He gives you the opportunity to represent His Son and the chance to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.”

I am so excited to go. I know it will change me for the better and help me heal after the hard year I had. I’m looking forward to feeling closer to my Savior than I have ever felt and helping others to come and feel that peace and joy.

Finally the parable. I heard this in church too and though it was fantastic. The High Councilman pulled a cucumber out of his jacket and talked to us about the parable of the cucumber. It was given by David A. Bednar in an April 2007 sessions of General Conference.  

“A pickle is a cucumber that has been transformed according to a specific recipe and series of steps. The first steps in the process of changing a cucumber into a pickle are preparing and cleaning. I remember many hours spent on the back porch of my home removing stems from and scrubbing dirt off of the cucumbers we had picked. My mom was very particular about the preparing and cleaning of the cucumbers. She had high standards of cleanliness and always inspected my work to make sure this important task was properly completed.

The next steps in this process of change are immersing and saturating the cucumbers in salt brine for an extended period of time. To prepare the brine, my mom always used a recipe she learned from her mother—a recipe with special ingredients and precise procedures. Cucumbers can only become pickles if they are totally and completely immersed in the brine for the prescribed time period. The curing process gradually alters the composition of the cucumber and produces the transparent appearance and distinctive taste of a pickle. An occasional sprinkle of or dip in the brine cannot produce the necessary transformation. Rather, steady, sustained, and complete immersion is required for the desired change to occur.

The final step in the process requires the sealing of the cured pickles in jars that have been sterilized and purified. The pickles are packed in canning jars, covered with boiling hot brine, and processed in a boiling-water-bath canner. All impurities must be removed from both the pickles and the bottles so the finished product can be protected and preserved. As this procedure is properly followed, the pickles can be stored and enjoyed for a long period of time…

Just as a cucumber must be prepared and cleaned before it can be changed into a pickle, so you and I can be prepared with “the words of faith and of good doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6) and initially cleansed through the ordinances and covenants administered by the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood…

And the Lord has established a high standard of cleanliness.

“Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence” (Moses 6:57).

Proper preparing and cleaning are the first basic steps in the process of being born again…

Just as a cucumber is transformed into a pickle as it is immersed in and saturated with salt brine, so you and I are born again as we are absorbed by and in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we honor and “observe the covenants” (D&C 42:13) into which we have entered, as we “feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:3), as we “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart” (Moroni 7:48), and as we “serve [God] with all [of our] heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2), then:

“Because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7).

The spiritual rebirth described in this verse typically does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process—not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience.

A cucumber only becomes a pickle through steady, sustained, and complete immersion in salt brine. Significantly, salt is the key ingredient in the recipe. Salt frequently is used in the scriptures as a symbol both of a covenant and of a covenant people. And just as salt is essential in transforming a cucumber into a pickle, so covenants are central to our spiritual rebirth.

We begin the process of being born again through exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins by one having priesthood authority.

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

And after we come out of the waters of baptism, our souls need to be continuously immersed in and saturated with the truth and the light of the Savior’s gospel. Sporadic and shallow dipping in the doctrine of Christ and partial participation in His restored Church cannot produce the spiritual transformation that enables us to walk in a newness of life. Rather, fidelity to covenants, constancy of commitment, and offering our whole soul unto God are required if we are to receive the blessings of eternity.

“I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).

Total immersion in and saturation with the Savior’s gospel are essential steps in the process of being born again...

Cured cucumbers are packed into sterilized jars and heat processed in order to remove impurities and to seal the containers from external contaminants. The boiling-water-bath procedure enables the pickles to be both protected and preserved over a long period of time. In a similar way, we progressively become purified and sanctified as you and I are washed in the blood of the Lamb, are born again, and receive the ordinances and honor the covenants that are administered by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood..

Through faith in Christ, we can be spiritually prepared and cleansed from sin, immersed in and saturated with His gospel, and purified and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.”

I love this Gospel so much. I love all the new things it teaches me every day. I am grateful for my relationship with my Savior and all that He does for me every day of my life. I cannot wait to dedicate 24 hours of my life, 7 days a week, in laboring to bring others unto Him. I pray that He who loves us all with an infinite blesses you and watches over you my dear reader, until you read again.

If you would like to read Elder Bednar's full talk click here
*We are missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
** Also, I can finally roll my R's after a month of trying every day! God is blessing me already!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Mission Q & A

Did the age change affect you?
I honestly think it affected everyone in some way another; whether you’re a parent who now may have multiple missionaries out at the same time, or of missionary age now able to go. I just turned 20 last August and was planning on serving a mission long before that. A week before the age change I met with my YSA Bishop and told him I was planning on putting in my papers before leaving to do a study abroad in Israel. Honestly the age change just moved everything up for me. Instead of submitting my papers in April and leaving in August after my study abroad (when I would have been 21) I submitted my papers in November and am leaving in April. God is definitely hastening His work and I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

If yes, how long did it take you to decide to go?
Actually, the moment the prophet announced the age change, after hugging many of my friends who were also affected by the news, I texted my home ward Bishop and told him I would call him the moment the session was over. I felt like God, in that moment had said to me “You’ve wanted to go on a mission so badly for a long time, so here is this great blessing. You don’t have to wait any more.” My family was not surprised by this at all. Although some of them did advise me to slow down and think about things. Like how it would affect my schooling etc… But I couldn’t be swayed. I was going and there was nothing anyone could do to stop me.

Did you always want to serve a mission? Why/why not?
There has always been a part of me that has always wanted to serve. Even when I dated guys there was a part of me that pined for the chance to serve. I knew that getting married and starting a family was just as noble of a pursuit. Yet I wanted to get out into the world and share my testimony with my fellow brothers and sisters. I love my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so much and I cannot imagine anything that would please Him more than to spend 18 months in His service as a missionary.

The defining moment for my desire to serve a mission came in the form of an answered prayer. Before going to school I was considering double majoring (I think I work myself to hard at times. I’m working on not killing myself while trying to over achieve at the same time). I had been praying a lot about this decision. Especially because double majoring would extend my education a whole year (making my degree five years instead of four). However, before I left for BYU I met with my home ward Bishop (the same one who I called the day of the age change and interviewed me for my mission. He admitted that it was a very special moment for him). He was just talking with me about getting things squared away before going off to school, what my plans were etc…

Then there was a lull in the conversation and I waited for him to say that he’d had a nice chat and to send me on my way. But instead he leaned forward in his seat and said “Haley, I feel strongly prompted to tell you two things. First that you should finish your education as fast as possible and second, that when the time comes, you should strongly consider serving a mission.” It was like someone had poured a bucket of cold water over my head. God had answered my prayer through this inspired servant of His. Not only that but when the words left His mouth that I should serve a mission I knew that was exactly what God wanted me to do. Ever since that desire has burned within me so ferociously that it, I feel, has caused some complications with relationships I have been in. Again, I am so grateful that I am going four months earlier then I planned. It is a huge blessing, a wonderful reminder that God is mindful of His precious children.

Where did you want to be called? Why?
This is an amusing question for me now because honestly I can’t think of anywhere better then Panama. I had dreams, before I received my call that the Church opened up Jerusalem for missionary work (it currently is not). After a while I thought it would be cool to be one of the first sister missionaries in Turkey or Greece. The night I received my call I really thought I might get called to France or Germany (I have tons of ancestors from there and my grandma is full blooded German so it wasn’t too out there).

To be honest Panama never crossed my mind. I am ashamed to admit but I wanted to go foreign so badly that I was terrified I would be called stateside and thus, be disappointed when I read my call. I was far from disappointed (as the video of me opening up my call shows). I knew that God knew me so well. I even said a little prayer before I opened it (I prayed for it every night since submitting my papers as well) that I would know, the moment I read my call, no matter where it was, that it was inspired of God and that He would lead me to people who needed me and who would teach me things that would help me become more like Him. It strengthened my testimony that God answers prayers. We cannot even fathom how much He loves us and how badly He wants us to be happy. I felt embraced by Him the night I received my call and I know that He will be with me as I go to teach the people of Panama.

Where were you called? Was this surprising? How do you feel about it?
I feel like, in some ways I’ve already answered this questions but that’s okay because I could talk for hours about this. No I did not expect Panama. In fact, Central America in general never crossed my mind. I think subconsciously I knew they had missionaries down there but in thinking about where I thought I would go it just never came up in my head. Even people guessing didn’t get anywhere close. A friend of mine guessed Mexico but that’s only because she is from there and thought it would be really neat if that was where I got called to.

It was a huge tender mercy. I will admit that I bawled, which is not something I do very often (just ask my family). I addressed one of the reasons why in the previous questions but there was another reason why my call struck such a deep cord in me. It didn’t dawn on me completely until later. I was so touched by it because deep in my soul I had always wanted to serve a mission somewhere like Panama.

Before I came up to BYU I went on a cruise with my family to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. While there we decided to do a zip lining excursion through the jungle (it was so green and beautiful there!). On our way up the parents wanted to show us kids that we had a lot to be grateful for by taking us through the really impoverished areas of the island. Places where the people ran around without shoes and the houses had no doors, floors or glassed windows. Yet the people looked happy. I felt this deep, overwhelming desire to help these people. I only spent ten minutes in their presence but I loved them so deeply and wanted so badly to not only help them temporarily but to bring them the saving message that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I even expressed this deep desire to my mom and she said that maybe I would have that opportunity.

That was almost a year and a half ago. To be honest, I forgot that deep desire. Even when people asked me where I would want to go if I could choose I didn’t’ remember that I’d felt that in Mexico all that time ago. Then I received my call and it was as if God was saying “I remembered daughter, don’t worry, I know what you want and as your loving Father in Heaven I want to give you that joy. I want to reward you for that righteous desire.” Panama is just like the part of Mexico I visited only on a bigger scale. There is so much work to be done in Panama and I am so excited and blessed to be a part of it.

Share an interesting missionary experience or story.
I am sad to say that I haven’t helped bring any of my friends to the waters of baptism but I do have family members that are not members. Through them I have had numerous opportunities to refine my beliefs. It is something that helped establish my own testimony at a relatively young age. I had to decide if I really believed it or not. It was a source of contention between my nonmember step mom and me and if I didn’t believe that faith of my youth it would have been a lot easier to give in to her ridiculing jabs.

Yet I chose to try to be the example. Even though every time I went and visited my dad and her I was terrified that she would again try to pressure me to do something that she knew was against my beliefs. Her favorite pressure point was inappropriate movies. She would often tell me that I made it difficult for the rest of the family because I wouldn’t go see R-rated movies with them. That we couldn’t truly enjoy family time together because of it. Yet, despite many shed tears and pleas for understanding I stood as strong as I could on legs that wobbled with fear and frustration.

I knew I had done well when one visit she gave me a little velvet box and said that it was her birthday gift to me. It reminded her of me when she saw it. She also handed me a shirr that was folded and said she hoped I liked them. When I unfolded the shirt that words “Forgetting what’s temporal, focused on the eternal,” stared back at me and in the box a little pendent with the words “Woman of God- Psalms 31” engraved on it glimmered in the light. I knew then that all the years of struggling to be an example and standing alone against the things of the world had mattered. She saw me for the person I wanted to be and for the first time I felt like she looked at me with respect. I do not think she will ever join that church but I do hope, that when the time comes that I see her again I feel good knowing that I did the best missionary work an 11 year old girl knows how to do, I tried to be an example.

Why are you serving?
This is a very multi-dimensional question but for the sake of attention span I will boil it down to the main reason. I love my Savior Jesus Christ. He has been my closest friend and dearest companion. I have gone places that no one but Him can understand. He has been there when I’ve hurt so badly I felt like a physical being was binding my tongue and preventing me from speaking the words of a broken heart aching to be comforted. He has been there for me when I felt my world falling in around me. He is really all I need in this life to be happy. My relationship with Him is not one based off of a superficial belief in the Son of God but a deep and abiding trust in my Savior and Elder Brother. In any earthly relationship we work to make the ones we love happy. The same is true for my relationship with my Lord and my God. He has provided me with such joy that I want to make Him too happy by the way I live my life. Though I could never do any small measure of the things that He has done for me I can wear out my days in service to Him and I hope that when I kneel before Him at the last day He will take me in his arms and say “Well done my good and faithful servant.” And He will call me His and will know what it means to be truly and perfectly at peace.

[b]Any advice for future sisters or girls still deciding?[/b]
I have so many thoughts on this. My first bit of advice is to not get caught up in the hype. Don’t feel like you have to go because your neighbor and their dog are going. Also don’t go because you need a way to kill time while you’re waiting for your “pen pal with benefits” to come home. There a lot of other things you can do, things that won’t be so hard. I guess it boils down to, go for the right reason. A mission will be the hardest, most physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing experience of your life. If you are not out for the right reasons it’s going to be a miserable 18 months. Just search your heart. Figure out what God wants for you. To me true conversion is not in aligning your will with God’s. It is completely throwing aside your will and wanting only what God wants for you. I can personally testify that if you do this you will find more joy than you have ever known.

Second, before you leave, come to know your Savior. You cannot represent someone you do not know personally and intimately. You will, every day, encourage people to come to know Jesus Christ. But if you do not know Him, if you do not have a relationship with Him it will be harder to encourage others to know Him. That might involve a little walking where He has walked and suffering the way he suffered. But when you come to know that He has “engraven you upon the palm of His hands”, that He loves you and suffered for you. When you come to realize that if you were the only one that needed to be saved He would have suffered in Gethsemane and on Calvary over and over just for you. That is when you are in a place to really represent Him and to invite others to walk with you on the road to discipleship back towards our Father in Heaven.

To cut it short my last bit of advice is to not worry about the little things. I can’t tell you how many girls I have heard worried about the tiniest unimportant thing. You are choosing to put your trust in an all knowing, all powerful Being that loves you infinitely and completely. He is not setting you up to fail and even when you come home He will take care of you. You will be blessed beyond your wildest imagination for serving Him. He has told His children before and I reiterate the saying “Fear not little flock” He gave up His life for you and the small portion of your life that you are giving up for Him is not going unnoticed. Take heart, lift up your eyes and know that no matter your concerns He will see to it that it is taken care of. He loves you and He is waiting for you to serve in whatever capacity you were meant to do so.

Anything else?
I am just so very grateful to serve the people of Panama and feel so blessed that God has seen me as worthy to do so. I still have a long road of preparation but I am so excited for my chance to go out and do what I have longed all my life to do. It so wonderful to see all the worthy sisters getting ready to go out and I hope to one day to have daughters just like them. This is truly the greatest work on Earth. As sisters in Zion we have been given the errand of angels to gather His flock it has been a privilege answering these questions and really reflecting on the work of the Lord. Thank you and God bless you all.

(see the videos tab for the opening of my mission call).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Journey Just Begun

I figured the best way to begin keeping up this blog on a regular basis was to talk about my journey towards my call. The little things that made me believe that a mission was exactly what God wanted me to do. I'm not going to recollect failed relationships and things like that which were, in many ways, guiding stars, to this point but rather moments where the Holy Ghost personally witnessed to me that God needed me in the mission field.

It definitely began the summer before I came up to BYU. I was thinking of double majoring and was talking pretty candidly with the coordinators of both majors to see if I could work it out. Yet I had not received a confirmation from God that I was trying to do would ultimately lead me in the direction that He wanted me to go. So I made no set plans. Then I went in and spoke with my Bishop one last time before leaving for college. We had a pleasant conversation, as we often did in my interviews and then he stopped for a long moment. I was expecting him to say that we were finished and that I could leave but instead he look me in the eye and said "I feel very prompted to tell you two things." In quiet anticipation I leaned forward in my chair. He went on, "first, I feel I should tell you to finish your education as fast as possible."

I must admit that I was quiet floored. There was the answer to my prayer. You see, if I had gone forward with my double major I would have spent five years on my Bachelors degree instead of four. I knew that this was my answer and so, curiously, I waited to see what else he had to say to me. "Second, I feel strongly that I should tell you that you should seriously consider serving a mission when the time comes." With those words the spirit hit me like a ton of bricks. Well, when the spirits hits me its more like someone has dumped a bucket of ice water all over me. In fact when I feel the spirit very strongly I start to shake, it happens every time I get a blessing which has always been interesting to me.

Anyway, in that moment I knew that I should serve. There would be obstacles on that road towards service, including broken hearts, dashed hopes and shattered spirits but over the years I have always held to that reminder of the spirits telling me that God needed to me gather His children.

One other incident that I will recollect to you, my dear reader, is one that is very dear to my heart. One evening I was sitting in the living room of my dorm doing my homework when "How Great Thou Art" by Selah came on my ipod. I had heard this song numerous times before yet as the words rang from the small electronic device "how great thou art, how great thou art" I knew that what I wanted more than any thing in this world was to share my testimony of this Gospel with anyone who would listen (that is a big reason why I've started both of my blogs). What a better way to praise God then to give up 18 months of my life to serve Him. I think in part I understand how the sons of Mosiah felt for I go out just as they did "that perhaps I might bring [others] to the knowledge of the Lord their God..." and like them I "am desirous that salvation be declared to every creature..." (Mosiah 28:2-3)

I feel so privileged to go to Panama and preach the Gospel of the King to whom I have dedicated my life. He has been preparing me my entire life to contribute to His work and I can think of no better way of showing my devotion to Him. I am grateful for all of you who take the time to read my blogs. May God bless you always, until you read again.