Monday, April 28, 2014

Lots of Pictures!

passion fruit cake I made for the baptism 

Cute Brazillian Boys


Maria (recent convert) and her Daughter-in-law

Our Church is BEAUTIFUL!

My district and the girls I live with

Peanut Butter Goes So Fast


Happy May, folks. (Yes, that means Mother´s Day. YES!)
This was a good week. In February, we baptized Maria and yesterday her husband was FINALLY baptized! We found them in January, and are super happy that he finally decided to take this important step. It was a miracle. 
Really don’t have much news for now... this transfer is flying. The area is great. We are working hard. 
Easter has come and gone, but it’s a message we always hold in our hearts. As such, I found a really beautiful story, a glue-in in my scriptures from seminary.
``It was obvious that 8-year-old Stephen´s mental retardation was becoming even more severe. His Sunday school teacher did her best to include Stephen in the classroom activities and to avoid situations which might prompt his classmates to make fun of him. In April, she gave each of the 8 children in the class an empty L´eggs pantyhose container (plastic egg) and instructed them to place inside the container an object that represented new life in spring. Fearing that Stephen might not have caught on, and not wanting to embarrass him, the teacher had the children place all the containers on the desk so that she could open them. The first had a tiny flower in it. “What a lovely sign of new life,” the teacher said. One of the students couldn’t help but erupt, ``I brought that one!” 
“Next, came a rock. The teacher assumed this must be Stephen´s, since rocks don’t symbolize new life. But Billy shouted that his rock had moss on it, and moss represented new life. ``Very good, Billy,” agreed the teacher. A butterfly flew from the third container and another child bragged that her choice was the best of all. The fourth container was empty. This must be Stephen´s, thought the teacher, quickly reaching for a different one. ``Teacher, please don’t skip mine,`` interrupted Stephen. ``But its empty, Stephen,” said the teacher gently. “That’s right,`` said Stephen. ```The tomb was empty, and that represents new life for everyone.”
“Later that summer, Stephen´s condition worsened and he died. At his funeral on his casket, mourners found 8 L´eggs pantyhose containers- one from each of his classmates- and all of them empty.”
I love little Stephen´s perspective. The Savior provided the path for “new life” for each of us. He made it possible for us to really live, this life and in the next. We have hope in the life to come, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't have hope and joy and love and laughter in the life we live in now. As 2 Nephi 2:25 reads, ``men are that they might have joy``. Christ made it possible for us to be happy. I want you to ask yourself this question, ``Am I happy?” And if you are, good! You are an example to us all- keep on keeping strong, and do your best to help those of us who haven’t quite made it there yet, or just aren't feeling so bright and cheery today. And if you can’t say ``yes`` to my question, a second one follows: ``Why not?``
I’m going to be very honest with you and I don’t want anyone overreacting. I hit a rough few months. The lowest I’ve ever been in my life. The words of Jeffrey R. Holland in his talk, ``Like a Broken Vessel`` became very alarmingly real to me. I had never been so afraid or hopeless or apathetic in my life... These are not numbered among my characteristics- virtues or vices, it was never me. Regretfully I tell you that I thought I´d nearly forgotten what it meant to be happy and thought I´d never make it there again. But God sent me an angel. (I have many in my life, you know :) ) A member took us into a small shop on the street corner and had my companion and I each choose a bracelet- a small gift. My companion immediately selected the red on with the word, ``LOVE`` lettered in cursive across the band. I chose a bracelet not paying much attention to color or wording. The member told me he didn’t like my choice and said, ``Pick the pink one (with the word ``happiness``). I don’t know what motivated his decision, but it was an answer to prayer. I looked at the word ``happiness`` and felt something spark in my mind and my heart. I slipped the band on my wrist and we went back to work. 
A bracelet is a silly thing, really, and this is a silly story... but I learned something, and I think that’s always what counts. I learned that the choice to be happy is as easy as the choice to slip a simple band on your wrist. The keyword here is ``choice``. So every morning when I put the band on, I make the choice that today I AM going to be happy. President Uchtdorf teaches this principle in his talk, “Of Resolutions and Regrets” in the section, “I wish I’d let myself be happier.”
He said, “So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness: a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial. The older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don’t really matter or determine our happiness. You and I are ultimately in charge of our own happiness... sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey... doesn't it seem foolish to spoil sweet and joyful experiences because we are constantly anticipating the moment when they will end?... We shouldn't wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was available all the time! Life is not meant to be appreciated only in retrospect. ``This is the day the Lord hath made…” the psalmist wrote. “Rejoice and be glad in it”... No matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges and trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish... Let us resolve to be happy, regardless of our circumstances.``
AMEN. I testify that we can be happy. We can be grateful, hopeful, joyful,  patient, merciful, selfless and giving, meek, and even understanding.  We can be better listeners, quick to forgive and slow to anger. We can be examples, better Christians, better neighbors, and better friends. I’m not saying it’s easy, but the phrase, ``attitude is everything`` isn't a joke, and not much of an exaggeration either. 
I LOVE you guys, and as such, my heart breaks for you in your heartache and rejoices with you in your success. My invitation to each of you this day and always is that you make the choice. Make the choice each day- no matter how difficult each coming day may seem.  And if you establish this goal with Christ as your center, focus, foundation, and inspiration, I promise you that no force in earth or hell with have power to knock you down. Christ always wins. That means that we get to win, too.
With this in mind, may we always remember the words of David O. McKay, “Mans greatest happiness comes from losing himself for the good of others.”

I love you all. Be good. Be safe. Be happy. SMILE! You all have beautiful smiles :)

Milton´s baptism!

Clau- a friend of mine. 

Who says you can’t be a missionary AND a rockstar? Fun fact: my nickname here is Miley Cyrus. People here think I look like her.

Monday, April 21, 2014

April is flying...

April 21
Hey everyone! Happy Easter! Happy Birthday Kasidy. 
It was a great week. Leandro was baptized. He is from Rio, which makes him SUUUUUUUPPPERRRRR cool. Always wanted to be carioca. Já era. Anyways, we found him tracting. (So thank you President for the request!)
This week was interviews with President and Sister Nogueira- it went very, very well. Sending mom some details ;)
April is flying, right? Can’t believe I will be talking to you guys in a few weeks! Stoked! Anyways, we are all doing well here, just loving Guarabira. 
2 funny stories. 1) Almost weekly, someone tells me I look like an actress from a Mexican soap opera. Hysterical. Don’t know what I think about that. 
2) I have a new investigator that is calling me her `nora` - daughter-in-law. O my goodness... Jacqueline #2.... if only she could be Jacqueline for real? I really miss her....; /
One thought I had today- inspired by my Katie and her thoughts on happiness.. I have been thinking a lot about happiness lately (thanks for the letters, Kate) and came across this quote: ``You know you sometimes think yourself into unhappiness and depression. But did you know, you could also think yourself into happiness? By positive thinking, you will be well, you will prosper, and your prayers will be answered. Become the master of your thoughts. Stop thinking about how tough life is. Stop thinking about the future and the past, think of God´s riches and love and express these thoughts daily. You will become what you think.`` Albert E Cliffe. 
Obviously this is much easier to hear and say than to do, isn’t it, so for those of you discouraged, President Uchtorf always seems to help, ``My dear brothers and sisters, don’t get discouraged if you stumble at times. Don’t feel downcast or despair if you don’t feel worthy to be a disciple of Christ at all times. The first step to walking…in righteousness is simply to try…We must try to believe. Try to learn of God, read the scriptures, study the words of His latter-day prophets; choose to listen to the father, and do the things he asks of us. Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible- and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you.``
You can do it!!! We can! Smile about that! Yesterday we celebrated the greatest act of all- what made it all possible!

So the pictures are better than the message this week. Sorry.... I am already out of time. But I love you so much! Have a great week. Michael, stop breaking so many hearts ;)

My delicious lunch after district meeting. 

My district

Our baptism- Leandro

Monday, April 14, 2014

Easter Message

It was a good week and really, it hasn't been too long since I last emailed (Wednesday). All is well here in Guarabira and the work is moving forward. 
I wish I had more news or something excited to say... but I don’t. We do have a lot of investigators that are progressing right now, and that is a huge blessing!
Really, all my thoughts this week are turned to next Sunday, Easter. What an amazing day it is to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. In that spirit, I had to quotes I wanted to share today. 
 Jeffrey R. Holland gave a few things to remember during sacrament meeting and I found one idea particularly interesting. He said, ``On some days we will ahve cause to remember the unkind treatment He received, the rejection he experienced, and the injustice- oh the injustice He endured. When we, too, then face some of that in life, we can remember that Christ was also troubled on every side, but not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down but ´dot destroyed´(2 Cor 4:8-9). 

``When those difficult times come to us we can remember that Jesus had to descend below all things before he could ascend above them, and that He suffered pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind that He might be filled with mercy and know how to succor His people in their infirmities (Alma 7:11-12).
``To those who stagger or stumble, he is there to steady and strengthen us. In the end he is there to save us, and for all this He gave His life. However dim our days may seem, they have been darker for the savior of the world... in fact, in a resurrected otherwise perfected body, our Lord of this sacrament table has chosen to retain for the benefit of his disciples the wounds in his hands and his feet and his side- signs, if you will, that painful things happen even to the pure and perfect. Signs, if you will, that pain in this world is NOT evidence that God doesn’t love you. It is the wounded Christ who is the captain of our soul- he who yet bears the scars of sacrifice, the lesions of love and humility and forgiveness.``
I think the message of the resurrection is the most beautiful that there is... and the same hope comes from Joseph B. Wirthlin´s message, Sunday Will Come. He said, ``I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world´s history, that Friday when the Savior was crucified was the darkest. But the doom of that day did not endure. The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind. And in an instant, the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, stood before them as the first fruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence... Because of the life and eternal sacrifice of the Savior of the world, we will be reunited with those we have cherished.``
I love my Savior. The words of the hymn, ``I stand all amazed`` come to mind as I think of all He did for each and every one of us. He loves us. My prayer is that this Easter Sunday and always, we remember His loving sacrifice that made everything possible. 
I love you all. I am grateful to have the greatest family to have ever lived. We are not a perfect family, are we? But we are together to teach each other all we need to know that one day will may be perfected in Christ. 
Have a wonderful day, week, whatever. Be safe. I love you. May God be with you until we meet again.

Sister Seal

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Transfer news? Still in Guarabira...

Transfer news? I am still here with Sister Willette. What a blessing to stay in this area. One of my really good friends, Sister Augusta went home. That was super sad; she has helped me SO much these last 2 months. I will miss her. It’s strange watching a missionary ``die``. I don’t know how to explain it really. When you’re a missionary, when you've been out long enough, you get to the point where you forget your old life- it feels like a dream. It truly feels like you will never go home... Watching her leave was hard- most have blank expressions- like it doesn't sink it until long after you've reached the airport back home, and even then I’m sure the shock doesn't pass....
Since I hit my year mark, I have had many tell me to keep focused and keep working hard. I appreciate the encouragement, counsel, and support. And to make it clear- I’m more focused than ever. And even though I love you all more than life itself- it doesn't feel like I’m going home ANY time soon- or ever for that matter. Know that my mind is here...and even though you all have a very big piece of my heart there, my heart is here too. When bad things happen, you just learn quickly that the gospel is all you really have. That’s a lesson I am learning very well these days.
This was a good week- full of hard work and topped off with General Conference, as you know. I don’t have any inspiring stories... I only watched one session in English and the rest was Portuguese. So let’s just say I am very much looking forward to the Ensign (in English). But it was phenomenal, as always. The highlight for me was the last session. I can’t remember who taught the first vision/ restoration, but it was stellar. 2 speakers invited us to pray to know of the truth for ourselves. We had an investigator with us during that session and at the end she turned to me and asked, “Do you really believe I can pray and know for myself too?” The hope in her eyes nearly brought tears to mine as I replied, “I promise you that you can know, too...” She readily accepted baptism after that and now we are working with her with a date. The gospel changes people’s hearts. Our message is a message of change and hope and we couldn't have a better one to take to all nations. (or to all neighbors... hint hint)
Fun fact: I have bangs now- Sister Augusta cut my hair for me last night... and I love it- so even though, Mom, you always told me not to... you would like them, too. Ha, that was random- but só vai.
I really don’t have much else to say. Can’t believe its April. Super excited for Easter- to celebrate the greatest act of all history. And...I love being a missionary. I really do. I would be nothing without my mission. I see why God called me to serve now and am ever grateful that He did. 

I hope you all have a stellar week. I love you and pray for you always. Wish I had a quote for today... but I don’t. All I have is something I learned last week about prayer:

We don’t pray to change God´s final answer. We pray to finally reach the same conclusion for ourselves that He arrived at a long time ago.

He already knows what we need and when we pray- we find out how it is that He plans to give it to us and a lot of the time that means work on our part. It requires that we use the enabling power of the atonement.