Monday, May 26, 2014

Not Quite Christmas

This week on Sunday I taught the lesson for Sunday School and that was stressful, but not too bad because there aren't a lot of members that show up anyway. I don't if you guys are on the same schedule that we are, but I taught about Ruth and Hanna and Naomi, and it was really great to think about how the qualities that made them great women thousands of years ago are the same qualities that are of value today.

Kikka is doing well and I am really excited for her. The only problem is that she is in France right now and will be for the next 3 weeks. But after she is back we plan to meet pretty regularly. After converts are baptized, we teach them all of the lessons again, and we just continue to meet with them to make sure everything is good.

I've got to admit, this week was a little bit slower than normal, but that is okay, because every day can't be Christmas, right? And just because we aren't always opening presents doesn't mean we can't enjoy the toys we already have. That was basically my attitude toward this week, and I was alright with it, because up to this point, my mission has been awesome. I don't pretend that I have loved every second of the long contacting sessions or the people that are less than kind on the street, but I can honestly say that the last 11 months have been the best months of my life. I have learned the most, grown the most, and I have definitely had the most opportunities to just sit down and laugh at myself because I didn't have anything else to do. For all of you that haven't served a mission- serve a mission. It will be the best thing you ever do.

Having said that, I refer back to my previous statement and take the liberty to emphasize the fact that sometimes, it's hard. And sometimes we all have moments when we hit the point where we really just realize that without God, we are nothing. I had one of those this week. I know that without Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the atonement in my life, I wouldn't be where I am right now, let alone be the kind of missionary that could have any kind of success. I was feeling pretty low for a while there, but I was inspired by Nephi in 2 Nephi chapter 4 and wrote my feelings in my journal:

The Lord in His infinite mercy has saved me from myself. My heart is overflowing with gratitude, for the Lord has heard my plea and answered my prayers. He has stooped down to pick up the wretch that I am and has put me on my feet. He has freed me from the chains that have bound me for so long- the chains with which the devil would drag me laughing down to hell. I, who have evaded the judgements of God and run from His righteousness. I, who have hidden my head from the gentle promptings of His Holy Spirit. Though I attempted to make myself equal with that Eternal Being in choosing the consequences of my sins, yet has He plucked my soul from my misery and encircled me with His infinite love. He has protected me from the jeers of the world, that great and spacious building, and has set me free to fly. I will soar through the Heavens, proclaiming the name of my Lord and God forever and ever. Come, O house of Israel, come and feel the mercy of of your Lord. Come, bear witness of His justice and see the marks of His love in His hands and His feet. I will praise His name forever, and I will fly for Him. I will fly for HIm until He calls me home- back into the arms of His love.

Yes, it's true that we all have moments of weakness; moments when we feel as though we can never be good enough. And in all honesty, we never will be. It is that simple. Without the atonement of Christ in our lives, none of us could ever be good enough to make it back to our Father in Heaven. But that is quite alright, because Jesus Christ has taken everything. Every single sin and weakness and burden and care. He took it all out of His love for us so that we in our moment of weakness can cry out through the darkness and receive the help that we need. The strength that we crave. Through the grace of Jesus Christ we CAN be enough. And that is a wonderful message. Go share it with everyone because there is nothing that will help the problems of the world today more than a little more faith in Jesus Christ. I promise.

I love you all and have a wonderful week!

haha sorry for the selfie, but I cut my own hair today! I'm slightly proud that I'm not bald at the end of it :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Gratulerer Med Dagen!

It is the 17th of May, and that is a big deal here in Norway. To give a little background to all the Americans out there who are only vaguely aware of where Norway is in the world (I was part of this group before I got called here), no Norway is not the capitol of Sweden :) But the 17th of May is a lot like our Independence day, because it is the day that Norway got their own constitution and became free from Denmark. This year is even more special because it was exactly 200 years ago in the year 1814 that Norway was granted its independence. The sad thing, however, is that only a few months later, in the fall of 1814, Norway was under Swedish rule as a type of province, and didn't gain its complete freedom again until 1905, but no one ever really talks about that anyway. 
On the 17th, there are all kinds of parades and celebrations, including a children's parade, a parade for all the citizens in their respective cities, and games and food at all the local schools, and after all that, they all meet in the middle of the city to sing songs, dance, and listen to a speech. It is a day for the all the women and a few men to dress up in their traditional bunads (if you have no idea what that is, take a look at the picture below) and the rest of the men to put on their best suits to celebrate. Everyone has Norwegian flags and sløyfer (a kind of ribbon to wear on your suit) and it is a lot of fun. The weather didn't exactly cooperate for us here in Narvik, but it was still a lot of fun and I enjoyed being a part of the culture for a while. There is so much rich history and culture, especially today on the birthday of Norway.

Me with my Flag and sløyfe!

the parade going by

A Norwegian woman with her traditional bunad. The facial expression is the best!

Another highlight of the week is that Kikka was baptized on Wednesday! She is such a special woman and it was wonderful to see her finally be able to make the promise to our Heavenly Father to always serve and love Him. She has gained such a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon over the past few months, and she knows without a doubt that it is true. I am inspired by her testimony. After she was baptized, she came up out of the water crying, and I knew that her life was really changed forever. She meant the promises she was making and I know the Lord has big things in store for her. 

It has been a great week for us here and I love being a missionary. I know that everyone says that, but I honestly can't imagine anything that would be better for me right now than to be serving the people of Norway. What a life.

Thanks for all the love and support, I feel it every day. I am praying for all of you!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mothers are Great!

Happy Mother's day to all of you wonderful mothers out there! I think it is such an interesting thing because yesterday there were hundreds of thousands of missionaries and there families anxiously watching the clock as the time drew nearer that they would get to talk together. As I waited I pictured the many LDS homes where excitement bubbled as the time came to talk to sorely missed siblings and and children. Isn't it a great thing that we do in our church? I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did :)

It has been a wonderful week for me this week. A few highlights include painting one of the member's houses (an opportunity we don't get at home because many of the houses are stone and brick! But here they are made out of wood and all sorts of bright colors. It feels almost like I am in Candyland sometimes) and enjoying the warm weather lately. Well, warmer. I can't say that it is exactly summer yet, but it has been nice enough. Norwegian weather stays pretty mild, and I suppose that is going to be a real blessing when it isn't 100 degrees out. Positive thinking, right?

The best part of recent life has been a woman we are teaching named Kikka. She is going to be baptized on Wednesday, and she is just great. I tell everyone that she would be baptized whether we were here or not, because her testimony is that strong. It is amazing to watch someone change their life and come unto Christ because of his restored gospel. I am so excited for her and the decision she is making. Pictures to come next week! In Narvik, we only have two options for a baptismal font: it's either the fjord or the local swimming pool. If it were me personally getting baptized, I would choose the fjord, no question, because what is cooler than getting baptized in the fjord? But it is really cold right now, so we've rented out the swimming pool and things are good to go. Life is good!

During this Mother's Day time of year, I would just encourage you all to go and do something that will make your mom realize how much you appreciate her, because now that I am half a world away from mine, I am really realizing how much I took her for granted. You know? I love her a lot. Moms are great, so let's not wait until they aren't there anymore to appreciate them. Go tell her you love her and make her feel it. That's important. I love you all and thanks for the love and support. I couldn't do it without you!

Selfie time with Elder Forsberg and me.

Our painting jumpsuits. I felt pretty boss.

Monday, May 5, 2014

May 5, 2014

Transfers went well this week, and I am enjoying serving with Elder Forsberg. On Wednesday during the time I was alone for a long time, I just went back to the apartment and took studies like normal, then I cleaned the apartment and had lunch, and then I called in to Oslo so that I could be on speaker for a trainers' meeting with president. After that I just went to the library and waited until it was time to go pick up my companion, so nothing too exciting there :)

Elder Forsberg and I are getting along really well, and I can already tell that we are going to be really good friends. It is really interesting, because although he is Norwegian, he has been living in Utah for the past 5 years, and he went to Lone Peak high school. Small world, right? He is 21 years old, and has his associates degree from UVU. His parents were baptized as adults, and then he was born into the church, along with his three younger brothers, but the rest of his family aren't members. Interesting fact about Norway: all citizens are required to serve in the military for 18 months as a sort of draft, so there was some concern that he wouldn't be able to come to Norwegian because of issues with that, but everything got sorted out, so he is good to go. But that is a weird requirement, right? But I am loving living with a Norwegian because I just get to ask him all the questions I have always had but never asked anyone, and I am hoping I am going to start making some good progress toward sounding like a native. So exciting!

Things are going well with Stanley and Paulina. We weren't able to meet with Paulina this week, but we are meeting with her on Wednesday, and hopefully we will be able to commit her to pick a date to be baptized then. We met with Stanley this week and he wasn't able to come to church on Sunday because he had a soccer match, but we really need him to start coming so he can be baptized. Our latest plan is to give him a calling in a way, in the branch so that he has a reason to come. We asked him to lead the music in sacrament meeting, so we are going to go practice with him on Tuesday so that he can do it. Fingers crossed that he comes. We did teach him the word of wisdom this week, though, and he committed to give up tea in order to comply with it, so there is still potential here.

Our latest awesome investigator is a woman named Kikka. She is the mother to a recent convert here and has come to institute for a long time, but only this week start officially taking the lessons from us, and she has committed to be baptized on the 14th of May! It was really cool because she told us that she wanted to be baptized. We didn't have to do anything really. It is so cool to see the Spirit work on people, because once they really get a testimony of the truth, they are willing to do whatever it takes to follow it. I am so grateful to be able to see the Spirit work in Kikka's life. So, we are just planning for a baptism here. We have to rent the local swimming pool and everything. Exciting stuff!

We weren't able to meet with Inge and Gro this week, but we are going to go visit them today, so keep them in your prayers for us!